Who can use chemotherapy 

As chemotherapy is a potentially life-saving treatment, it's usually recommended for most people with cancer, even if they're in poor health and it's likely the treatment will make them feel worse.

Delaying treatment, or in some cases not having chemotherapy, may be recommended if you:

  • are in the first three months of pregnancy  using chemotherapy during this time has a very high risk of causing birth defects
  • have low levels of blood cells  chemotherapy can lower your blood cell count further, so it could make you feel very ill and vulnerable to infection (medication and sometimes a blood transfusion may be needed to raise your blood cell count)
  • have severe kidney or liver disease  most chemotherapy medications are processed by your liver and kidneys, so this could have a very harmful effect if your liver and kidneys are already damaged
  • have had recent surgery or a wound  chemotherapy can disrupt the body’s ability to heal wounds, so it's usually recommended that the wound heals before treatment begins
  • have an ongoing infection  chemotherapy can make you more vulnerable to the effects of infection, increasing your risk of developing serious complications

Page last reviewed: 20/02/2015

Next review due: 20/02/2017