Cancer chemotherapy kills or arrests the growth of cancer cells by targeting specific parts of the cell growth cycle. However, normal healthy cells share some of these pathways and thus are also injured or killed by chemotherapy. This is what causes most side effects from chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy usually targets rapidly dividing cells. Some normal cells -- including blood cells, hair, and cells lining the gastrointestinal tract -- are also rapidly dividing and thus these are the normal cells most likely to be damaged.
Newer cancer therapies, some of which have already been approved by the FDA, are more specifically targeted at growth pathways that are only found in cancer cells. These drugs may be more effective while also being less toxic.
Appointments for outpatient chemotherapy should be made with your oncologist.