How chemotherapy drugs are given

The five most common methods for giving drugs during treatment for leukemia are:

• Intravenous (IV). Medicine is delivered directly into the bloodstream through a right atrial catheter or IV needle in the arm or hand. Intravenous medicines may be administered in a few minutes (slow IV push) or as an infusion over a number of hours.

• Oral. Drugs, taken by mouth in liquid, capsule, or tablet form, are absorbed into the blood through the lining of the stomach and intestines.

• Intramuscular. Drugs that need to seep slowly into the bloodstream are injected into a large muscle such as in the thigh or buttocks.

• Intrathecal (IT). Doctors perform a spinal tap and inject the drug directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord), circumventing the barrier between the blood and brain.

• Subcutaneous (Sub-Q). Drugs that need to enter the bloodstream at a moderately rapid rate are injected into the soft tissues under the skin of the upper arm, thigh, or abdomen.

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