Chemotherapy (also called chemo) is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill or reduce the size of cancer cells.

Chemo works against cancer by stopping the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide rapidly.It is used to:

  • Treat cancer: chemotherapy can be used to cure cancer, lessen the chance of it to return, or stop or slow its growth.
  • Ease cancer symptoms: chemo shrinks tumours and relieves cancer symptoms like pain and pressure.

Chemotherapy is used for common cancers like:

  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • uterine cancer
  • eye cancer (retinoblastoma)
  • kidney tumours (nephroblastoma)
  • neuroblastoma
  • leukemia (blood cancer)
  • colorectal cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • bone cancer
  • soft tissue cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • choriocarcinoma
  • endometrial cancer
  • anal cancer
  • esophageal cancer

Chemotherapy is used to treat many types of cancer. It may be the only form of treatment or in combination with other cancer treatments.

Other types of cancer treatment include:

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted therapy
  • immunotherapy
  • stem cell transplant


When combined with other treatments, chemotherapy can:

  • make a tumour smaller before surgery or radiation therapy. This is called neoadjuvant chemo.
  • destroy cancer cells that may remain after treatment with surgery or radiation therapy. This is called adjuvant chemo.
  • kill cancer cells that have returned or spread to other parts of your body.

common chemotherapy drugs in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the following are the commonly used chemo drugs:

  • Normal saline
  • Ranitidine
  • Ondansetron
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Promethazine
  • Cisplatin
  • Paclitaxel
  • Capecitabine
  • Adriamycin (doxorubicin hydrochloride)
  • Bleomycin
  • Carboplatin
  • 5 fluorouracil
  • Cyclophosphamide
  • Cytarabine
  • Etoposide
  • Flutamide
  • Prednisolone

The list is endless. Chemotherapy drugs are expensive. For ovarian cancer for example, a single course of chemotherapy drugs in Nigeria cost about N120,000 naira. For a full chemo to shrink ovarian cancer, you need 6 courses. That means it will cost you about N720, 000 naira for a full course of chemo for ovarian cancer.

The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) covers some of this medications. If you are on NHIS, it will reduce your cancer treatment cost burden.

side effects

Chemo not only kills fast growing cancer cells, but also kills or slows the growth of healthy cells that grow and divide quickly. The common side effects are mouth ulcers, stomach ulcers, hair loss, vomiting, nausea, anemia, tiredness, skin changes and burns.

cost of chemotherapy

The cost of chemo depends on:

  • the type of cancer
  • the types and doses of chemotherapy drugs used
  • duration of chemo
  • frequency of chemo given (daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly?)
  • is the chemo given on outpatient basis or on admission
  • other treatment procedure before chemo like blood transfusion
  • the centre you are getting the chemo
  • NHIS cover

A full course of chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment in UBTH is about N700,000 naira.

In LUTH, a full course chemo for prostate cancer ia about N640,000 naira.

If you are in need of financial assistance, there are some non-governmental organisations that offer financial support services for cancer treatment.




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