We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Intrathecal Chemotherapy?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Intrathecal chemotherapy is a method of administering chemotherapy drugs to treat cancer. With this method, the medications are injected directly into the cerebrospinal fluid that exists in the tissues that surround the spinal cord and brain. This type of chemotherapy is used for leptomeningeal spread, which is when the cancer has spread to the central nervous system. Intrathecal chemotherapy will only be effective before tumors have begun to grow in the spinal cord or brain.

Chemotherapy works by stopping the spread of cancer cells by preventing them from growing and dividing. The body cannot fight off cancer cells by itself because they multiply at an accelerated rate. A drawback to chemotherapy is that it also attacks the body’s healthy cells. Unlike most chemotherapy medicines, intrathecal chemotherapy drugs are able to penetrate through the blood-brain barrier, or the barrier between the central nervous system and the bloodstream. An example of an intrathecal chemotherapy drug is called Methotrexate.

This method of chemotherapy can be administered in two different ways: by intralumbar injection or via an Ommaya reservoir. An intralumbar injection, also called a lumbar injection, is administered with a needle into the spine. This type of injection may be painful. Caregivers may use local anesthesia to numb the area before administering this injection.

Using an Ommaya reservoir requires surgery. An area of the head will be shaved. Then, while the patient is under anesthesia, the reservoir will be inserted underneath the scalp. Patients may notice a raised area on the head following this procedure. Medication can then be administered via a small needle at the top of the Ommaya reservoir.

A patient’s chemotherapy may be administered in cycles. After receiving chemotherapy drugs for a period of time determined by the caregiver, the patient can then have a respite. The purpose of this respite is to let the body develop new, healthy cells.

Every patient’s chemotherapy needs are different. The doctor will determine whether the patient needs intrathecal chemotherapy on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Some patients may receive a combination of different chemotherapy drugs, which may shorten the length of treatment.

The administration of intrathecal chemotherapy poses several risks to the patient. Unlike oral chemotherapy, this method may result in the medications leaking into other parts of the body. This means that the chemotherapy may not target the cancer as effectively. The patient could also experience a dangerous build-up of drugs in the spinal fluid. If an Ommaya reservoir is used, it may become blocked or twisted, which requires surgery to correct.

Other risks of intrathecal chemotherapy include an infection in the spinal cord. It can also cause an increased sensitivity of the eyes to light. Patients should carefully discuss the possible risks and side effects of this course of treatment with their doctor.

Not all patients will experience the same side effects, however, some common side effects are extreme, long-lasting fatigue; sores in the mouth or throat; and severe headache pain. Patients may also lose their appetite, develop sexual problems, and experience abnormal moods or memory. Chemotherapy can also cause blurred vision and dizziness. Patients may reduce dizziness and balance problems by lying down for several hours after treatment. Despite the side effects of chemotherapy, living with untreated cancer can be far worse.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.