How are cancer drugs administered?

Drugs are given in different ways. The four most common methods are

  • intravenous (IV)
  • by mouth
  • intramuscular and
  • intrathecal

The chosen method of administration is based on diagnosis and the drug`s characteristics. Some medications are taken by mouth in the form of a pill, capsule or liquid. The term intramuscular means that the drug is injected into the muscle, usually in the arm, thigh or buttock. Some drugs may be injected into the tissue under the skin rather than into the muscle. This is referred to as a subcutaneous injection. Giving medicine intravenously or directly into a vein is a very common method. Medication flows from a plastic bag, through tubing, into the bloodstream. Sometimes a syringe is used to push the drugs through the tubing. Certain types of leukaemia and lymphoma tend to spread to the nervous system. To prevent or to treat this, a physician may perform a spinal tap and inject chemotherapy into the spinal fluid to destroy cancer cells. This is known as intrathecal delivery.