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Chemotherapy and systematic anti-cancer therapy

Systemic anti-cancer therapies (SACTS) are types of cancer treatments that treat cancer cells in the whole body. They include chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted drugs and immunotherapy.

About chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the most common and well-known systemic anti-cancer therapy, and is used to treat many types of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs can be given as a single drug or several different types of drugs can be given together, known as combination chemotherapy. These drugs enter your blood stream and destroy cancer cells, stopping them from dividing and growing. Healthy cells can also be damaged during treatment and this can cause a number of side effects. Whilst these side effects can be severe, they are usually temporary as healthy cells grow back quickly.



Types of chemotherapy

  • Neo-adjuvant therapy icon plus

    Chemotherapy treatment before surgery or radiotherapy, with the aim of reducing the size of your tumour.
  • Adjuvant therapy icon plus

    Chemotherapy treatment after surgery or radiotherapy, with the aim of destroying any cancer cells that may still remain the body. This is to reduce the likelihood of your cancer returning in the future.
  • Peri-operative therapy icon plus

    Chemotherapy treatment both before and after surgery.
  • Chemoradiation icon plus

    Chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy treatment. This is a highly-specialised treatment combination and HCA UK are one of the only private hospital groups that can offer this type of treatment.
  • Palliative therapy icon plus

    When cancer has spread to other parts of the body chemotherapy can help to relieve symptoms and slow down the growth of cancer.

Hormone therapy

Some types of cancer are hormone-sensitive or dependent, which means they use the hormones in your body to grow. Hormone therapy is a treatment that uses drugs to lower or block the level of hormones in your body to slow down or stop the growth of cancer.

This treatment can be used to treat some types of breast, ovarian, womb or prostate cancer. If your diagnostic tests show that you have a type of cancer that is hormone dependent, your consultant will discuss the most appropriate treatment options with you and provide all the information you need to make an informed decision about your care.


Targeted Drug Therapies

Cancer cells are different to normal cells because changes occur in the DNA (genes). This means they behave differently to normal cells, can grow and divide quickly and can spread.

Targeted drug therapies use specific drugs to target these genetic differences and destroy cancer cells.


Targeted therapy is not suitable for types of cancer, but can be effective in treating some types of melanoma and leukaemia and are under clinical trial of other types of cancer.


Immunotherapy is a pioneering type of cancer treatment that uses your own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy is a well established treatment options for some cancers such as melanoma that have spread, some types of brain tumours and some gastrointestinal cancers. 

There are different types of immunotherapy treatments known as Monoclonal Antibodies (MABs), Cytokines and Adoptive Cell Transfer. Your consultant can arrange for advanced diagnostic tests to establish if immunotherapy treatment would be an effective treatment option for you. The results of these tests will be discussed at a multi-disciplinary team meeting to review and discuss the best treatment plan for you. 

Chemotherapy patient

Fertility preservation

Some cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery, can compromise a patient’s ovarian, testicular or uterine function.

At HCA Healthcare UK, we operate the Lister Fertility Clinic, the UK’s largest fertility clinic. This service provides men and women with the opportunity to preserve their fertility, where necessary, by freezing sperm, eggs or embryos.  

If the patient’s fertility is at risk, the opportunity to preserve fertility prior to treatment can be explored.


For patients in Manchester, The Christie Private Care works with a specialist fertility team in the region to support patients locally.

Facilities offering chemotherapy treatment

Contact our experienced cancer team

Any questions about our cancer services or treatment? We're happy to advise you or help you book an appointment with a cancer specialist consultant.

Call us on 

020 3553 9477
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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