How Long Does Chemotherapy Stay in Your Body?

Chemotherapy agents are powerful drugs that are used to treat cancer throughout the body. Chemotherapy drugs work by a variety of different mechanisms, but their general effect is to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells, which divide and proliferate quickly. Chemotherapy is administrated with the intention of eliminating cancer cells so that the infected body can survive and remain in remission.  

Patients may receive a number of different types of chemotherapy, depending on a variety of factors such as the stage of the cancer and the ultimate goal of treatment.  

How long does chemo stay in the body and bloodstream?

The benefits of chemotherapy can be long-lasting. This is crucial in fighting cancer, but it raises the question of how long these drugs stay in the bloodstream. 

In fact, most chemotherapy drugs remain in the body for only a few hours or days. They’re broken down by the kidneys and liver and excreted in the urine, stool, or sweat. 

A variety of factors can influence how long it takes for the drugs to leave your body. These can include the type of chemotherapy you’ve received, the presence of other medicines in your system, your age, and how well your liver and kidneys are working. Damage to an organ can slow down the process of drug removal. 

Chemotherapy pills.
Chemotherapy pills.

Remember that even though chemotherapy is rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the body, the effects — and side effects — of the drugs can last a long time, depending on the type of chemotherapy involved. Those side effects normally include

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Infection
  • Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Appetite changes
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth, tongue, and throat problems such as sores and pain with swallowing
  • Nerve and muscle problems such as numbness, tingling, and pain
  • Skin and nail changes such as dry skin and color change
  • Urine and bladder changes and kidney problems
  • Weight changes
  • Chemo brain, which can affect concentration and focus
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in libido and sexual function
  • Fertility problems

Your doctor can give you a range of how long any side effects are likely to last. 

Are there any natural remedies that can be used to ‘detox’ from chemo?

Detoxing refers to the process of removing “toxins” from the body, either naturally or via diets or supplements, which can be unsafe and falsely advertised. A 2015 review concluded that there was no compelling research to support the use of “detox” diets for weight management or eliminating toxins from the body, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Doctors and scientists say that the body already has specific systems in place (gut, liver, kidneys, and skin, to name a few) to efficiently clear toxins and waste. Eating healthy foods (such as vegetables) and drinking a lot of water helps the body break down and remove them.

Contact your doctor and/or licensed nutritionists, dietitians, and physicians to develop health-promoting strategies during and after treatment.

4 thoughts on “How Long Does Chemotherapy Stay in Your Body?”

  1. My honeys Dr. Told him 6
    weeks to 3 months for the radiation side effects, up to 6 months for chem side effects. Hope this helps. P. S. You also have to wait 6 weeks to 3 months
    For mri/petscan which is a really long time to hear the word “remssion”. He just finished treatment.

  2. My last chemo was almost 5 years ago. I’m 55yo and have always had very good string teeth, braces as a child and a perfect smile. Chemo destroyed my teeth but it took 4 years to do it. The throat surgery combined with the radiation has left my esophagus only able to swallow something about the size of a nickle. The feeding tube ended up stapling my stomach and i had to have my gallbladder removed. Possibly the drugs? Idk…
    Not sure if i would go through all of that again, knowing what i know now.

  3. 58 years old. 12 weeks of Taxol & Herceptin followed by 4 weeks of radiation, followed by additional 9 months of Targeted Chemo Drug Herceptin, once every 3 weeks followed by 5 years of Hormone Therapy Anastrozole (Arimidex) once daily. Finished the 12 weeks of combined drug chemotherapy. Finished the 4 weeks of radiation. 10 more months of Herceptin yet to go. Hormone Therapy will begin in a few weeks. All for breast cancer, Stage 1, HER2 Positive, a gene in the breast that has mutated and causes cancer cells to grow more aggresively. Now facing the possibility it has metatasized in my brain, got a brain MRI scheduled. Been there, done that. Won’t ever forget ALL of the side effects I experienced but moving on with my life, as such. Even though it is far less in quality and quantity. But I am alive. I AM ALIVE.

  4. I got small cell lung cancer I had 5 cimio but still don’t look well and get tired easy more work eyes get burning any suggestions

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