Home Treatments Chemotherapy

What is chemotherapy? 

The Rutherford Cancer Centres provide a chemotherapy treatment service that offers both choice and flexibility. Our team is here to support you on your cancer journey, with treatments and wellbeing services available across the UK through our network of state-of-the-art oncology centres.

Chemotherapy is the use of cytotoxic (anti-cancer) drugs to destroy cancer cells in the body by disrupting the cancer cells and preventing them from growing and dividing. Chemotherapy (sometimes known as a systemic therapy) drugs are specifically designed to damage mutated cancer cells that 'haven't been able to be repaired. While healthy cells are affected during this treatment, they are much better at repairing themselves once the chemotherapy has finished. If you need chemotherapy treatment, you may be treated with a single chemotherapy drug or a combination of chemotherapy drugs, known as a combination chemotherapy regimen.


In the UK, there are more than 50 different types of licenced chemotherapy drugs used to treat over 200 different types of cancer. Our consultants can provide you with more information on the types of chemotherapy drugs used and advise you on the best combination chemotherapy regimen for you.


Traditionally, treating a patient with chemotherapy is to try and cure the patient of their cancer completely - this is called ''curative'' chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may also be used to reduce the risk of cancer returning after treatment or removal surgery or used to reduce the risk or prevent cancer cells from spreading. In some instances, where the cancer cannot be cured, palliative chemotherapy is offered to relieve patient symptoms.

At the Rutherford, we use two methods for administering chemotherapy drugs:

  • Intravenously - which delivers chemotherapy drugs or combination chemotherapy regime directly into the bloodstream (via a port) using a small needle that is inserted into the hand or arm. Intravenous chemotherapy takes place in our state-of-the-art treatment suites, with space for up to ten treatment areas. Our suites are designed with comfort in mind with plenty of natural lighting and comfortable seating.  
  • Orally (via tablets) - which can usually be prescribed and taken at home. There other ways that chemotherapy is administered, to find out more, please visit the Macmillan website.

Find out more about the cancers we treat

Get started with our treatment finder

Our team is here to support you on your cancer journey, with treatments and wellbeing services.

Everyone is different, so treatment options for certain cancers will vary from person to person. An oncologist will discuss which treatment options will be best for you.

This treatment finder is designed to help you find out more about certain types of cancers and how they might be treated at the Rutherford. To get started, simply click a gender option below, and an area of the body for more information.

Choose the applicable option below to begin

Cancers we treat with proton beam therapy

Proton beam therapy can be used as a sole method for treating certain cancers or used in combination with other cancer services, such as chemotherapy, or to ensure that any remaining cancerous cells are destroyed following tumour removal surgery.

This type of treatment can be beneficial for cancers in certain areas of the body. You can find out more about the cancers we treat with proton beam therapy by using our treatment finder.

These are some of the body areas we can treat with proton beam therapy:
  • Bowel
  • Brain
  • Breast
  • Head & Neck
  • Lung
  • Lymphoma
  • Oesophagus
  • Prostate
  • Sarcoma
  • Skull base
  • Spine
  • Vaginal


Return to region selection

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy drugs work by damaging the cancer cells' ability to reproduce (divide) and grow. As the chemotherapy drugs cycle round the bloodstream, the cancer cells eventually die off.


Chemotherapy is given as a course of treatment, with the length of the chemotherapy treatment split into individual cycles of treatment. Both the course and cycle(s) of each chemotherapy treatment are dependent on the specific type of cancer to be treated. A course of chemotherapy can typically last between 3-6 months, while the cycles within timeframe tend to last 3-4 weeks at a time. Breaks are given in-between chemotherapy cycles, to allow the body time to recover. Individual chemotherapy treatment sessions that are delivered intravenously (via a port), may take several hours, but in some cases, up to a full day. Our chemotherapy nurses will be able to discuss with you in detail how long each treatment will take, so you can have an idea of what to expect.


As chemotherapy drugs affect both cancerous and healthy cells, side effects are expected. Some patients have said that the side effects are the hardest part of receiving chemotherapy treatment. However, not all chemotherapy patients experience every possible side effect and, any healthy cells that are affected will fully recover following treatment. Our consultants and clinical teams will always be on-hand for you, to discuss potential side effects and answer any questions you may have about managing them.


The benefits of chemotherapy

Although chemotherapy causes side effects, it can be beneficial to patients in specific circumstances. Everyone is different, and the benefits you see from having chemotherapy will differ to others, but here are some common benefits of when it is highly effective:

  • It can help eradicate certain cancer cells from the body
  • It can be effective when shrinking tumours before surgery
  • It can provide symptom relief for patients under palliative care

What is an infusion therapy?

Infusion therapy is a term that can be used to describe chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments, where drugs are delivered to your body intravenously or subcutaneously - find out more about infusion therapy by watching our video.

Watch the video

A patient journey at the Rutherford Cancer Centres

Chemotherapy, a systemic anti-cancer therapy (SACT).

Watch the video

Further information about chemotherapy

If you would like to know more about chemotherapy, including how it works, its benefits and possible side effects; please download our patient guide or visit our chemotherapy FAQs.

The care I received was outstanding from my first consultation to the end of the six chemotherapy treatments. The privacy situation was marvellous, to be able to be treated in such an environment was a privilege. Thank you to all the staff who were all so courteous and caring throughout.

Patient Satisfaction Survey - Rutherford Cancer Centre North East

July 20, 2020

Nurses were amazing, couldn’t have asked for more. Always there to help and made me feel at ease and most of all relaxed. Thank you so much. Place was clean, fresh, and relaxing to have treatment.

Patient Satisfaction Survey - Rutherford Cancer Centre North East

January 1, 2021

Thank you for looking after me so well. You are all brilliant.

Patient Satisfaction Survey - Rutherford Cancer Centre Thames Valley

February 1, 2019

The staff was excellent, caring and I would recommend to any person in my position.

Patient Satisfaction Survey - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

June 1, 2020

Chemo team very attentive & supportive throughout. Lok forward on each visit to talking to them.

Patient Satisfaction Survey - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

June 1, 2020

The whole treatment was completed by very caring and polite and caring staff who did everything to ensure my comfort and care. The premises were immaculate in cleanliness.

Patient Satisfaction Survey - Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales

August 2, 2020

We're here for you

It’s important that you feel supported, not only during your treatment but also afterwards, to give your body the best possible chance to heal.

After treatments your recovery will be supported by regular follow-up checks with your consultant. These will vary depending on the area of your body that's been treated, and the amount of treatment you've received. Follow-up appointments are used to help keep track of your recovery, so if you have any concerns you will have the opportunity to discuss them with your consultant.

The diagnosis of cancer combined with possible side effects can affect how you feel. Your treatment team is here to support you, and we encourage you to talk to us. Sometimes just talking about your emotions can be of great help and if necessary, we can arrange for further advice and support.

Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

If you have cancer, it's understandable you might be worried about coronavirus. Here is the latest guidance from Macmillan.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00 (Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)

Contact Us

Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

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MR-linac Radiotherapy



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