Sunday, February 18, 2024

What Does Chemo Look Like

Coping With The Loss Of Hair

Died From Chemo But NEVER Had Cancer | Chicago Med | MD TV

Many women who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer share that hair loss is the treatment side effect they fear most. Hair, and the way we style it plays an important role in our identity. When combined suddenly being faced with our mortality, other bodily changes such as a mastectomy or lumpectomy, and the social and relationship changes that go hand in hand with a cancer diagnosis, many women have a difficult time coping with this temporary loss of hair.

If you or a loved one are in this situation it can be helpful to view hair loss as the last straw on the camel’s back. If loved ones try to reassure women with breast cancer about their hair, they are often met with resistance and negativity. The reason for this is that hair loss is sometimes the dumping ground for a multitude of feelings and emotions associated with the diagnosis.

How Should I Plan For Chemotherapy Treatments

There are steps you can take before treatment begins to help you cope.

Prepare for side effects. Your team will work with you to plan for side effects common to your specific treatment. These may include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and other side effects. This can include recommendations about eating well and getting regular exercise.

Relieving physical and emotional side effects is an important part of your overall cancer treatment. This type of care is called palliative care or supportive care. Talk with your health care team about the side effects you experience and ways to manage and treat them. Learn more about the side effects of chemotherapy.

Make a caregiving plan. People receiving chemotherapy may need extra help during treatment with transportation, household chores, and other tasks. Family and friends can provide valuable support during this time, called caregiving. Ask your team what type of caregiving at home you may need during and after treatment.

Get help with finances. Cancer treatment can be costly. Before chemotherapy starts, talk with your team about the financial considerations of your treatment, including specific insurance coverage. You may want to contact organizations that can provide financial support. This could be important if your health insurance does not cover the whole cost of treatment.

What Factors Determine A Chemotherapy Plan

There are many drugs available to treat cancer. A doctor who specializes in treating cancer with medication is called a medical oncologist. This type of doctor will prescribe your chemotherapy. You may receive a combination of drugs, because this sometimes works better than 1 drug by itself.

The drugs, dose, and treatment schedule depend on many factors. These include:

  • The type of cancer

  • The stage of the cancer. Cancer stage is determined by the size and location of the tumor and whether or not the cancer has spread. tumor size, its location, and if or where it has spread.

  • Your age and general health

  • Any other medical conditions you have

  • Previous cancer treatments

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Effects On The Nervous System

Some drugs can make you feel anxious, restless, dizzy, sleepy or have headaches. If you have any of these, it is important to tell your cancer doctor or nurse. They may be able to prescribe medicines that can help with some of these effects.

Some people find that chemotherapy makes them forgetful or unable to concentrate during or after treatment. Doctors sometimes call this cancer-related cognitive changes but it is sometimes known as chemo brain. If this happens, it is usually mild.

Cognitive And Mental Health Problems

The Chronicles of Cancer: The Mom, the Breast and the IV Pole: March 2013

A 2021 study found that individuals who received chemotherapy had worse cognitive function 6 months after receiving chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy can also lead to difficulty with reasoning, organizing, and multitasking. Some people experience mood swings and depression.

The treatment itself and a persons anxiety about the condition may also trigger or worsen these symptoms.

include :

  • Alkylating agents: These affect the DNA and kill the cells at different stages of the cell life cycle.
  • Antimetabolites: These mimic proteins that the cells need to survive. When the cells consume them, they offer no benefit, and the cells starve.
  • Plant alkaloids: These stop the cells from growing and dividing.
  • Anti-tumor antibiotics: These stop the cells from reproducing. They are different from the antibiotics people use for infections.

There are many different classes of medication that doctors use in conjunction with chemotherapy, including monoclonal antibodies, immunotherapy, and targeted drugs.

A doctor will recommend a suitable option for an individual. They may recommend combining chemotherapy with other options, such as radiation therapy or surgery.

Also Check: Long Term Survivors Of Metastatic Breast Cancer

Side Effects Of Chemotherapy And How To Deal With Them

Story submitted by Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, TriHealth Cancer Institute

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Chemotherapy affects any fast-growing cells in the body, like the ones that line your mouth and intestines, as well as the cells that make up your bone marrow and hair follicles, With chemo, normal, healthy cells should bounce back and, ideally, the cancer cells dont. Chemo may be used to:

  • Cure the cancer
  • Prevent the cancer from spreading
  • Relieve symptoms the cancer may be causing

Sue Weber, RN, MEd, OCN, of the TriHealth Cancer Institute, explains common side effects of chemo and ways to deal with each.

Practical Hints For Constipation

  • To help prevent constipation, drink eight to 10 glasses of fluid a day.
  • Take a stool softener such as ducosate sodium, also known as Colace, one tablet once or twice a day. Senekot or Senekot-S also may be suggested. Ask your doctor or nurse for a recommendation.
  • Stay as active as you can. Consistent regular exercise can reduce constipation.
  • If you can tolerate them, try high-fiber foods such as prunes, bran, fruits and vegetables.

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What Happens During Chemotherapy Treatment

There are different ways you can receive chemotherapy. The most common way that chemotherapy drugs are given is through a needle into a vein. This is called intravenous or IV chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can also be taken as a pill, capsule, or liquid by mouth, as an injection or shot, or as a cream that is put directly on your skin. Learn more about the different kinds of chemotherapy.

During your first IV chemotherapy appointment, you should bring a friend or family member. They can support you and help you remember information. Sometimes you will be given medication before your chemotherapy treatment that can make you tired, so you may need someone who can drive you home.

You may also bring items that make your treatment time easier. For instance, considering bringing your phone, a tablet, books, or a blanket.

Before your treatment starts, you will:

  • Have a blood sample taken

  • Meet with your oncologist so they can check your health and blood test results

  • Meet the nurse or other health professionals who will give your treatment

  • Have your blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and temperature taken before starting treatment

  • Have your height and weight measured to find the right dose of chemotherapy

  • May have an IV tube, also called a catheter, put in your arm

To get the full benefit of chemotherapy, it is important to follow the schedule of treatments recommended by your doctor and manage other medications you’re taking.

My First Chemo Treatment Begins

What would Nausea 1 MILLION look like?

After the nurse accessed my port for the visit, they began the days combination of prescribed medicationsa sequence that I would learn over 16 total visits. My chemotherapy treatment started with saline to flush my port, then pre-medications for side-effects management. Next came the bags of chemo drugs, and finished with more saline.

I felt normal and strong while the chemo medications were pushed through my body I drank a ton of water to flush my system as efficiently as possible. I thought I would feel crummy instantly, but for me the side effects kicked in later.

The entire chemotherapy treatment process went very smoothly and I was thankful for the accommodating health system where I had treatment. There were always plenty of snacks, beverages, books, art therapy opportunities, words of encouragement and support. Chemo didnt feel like a party, but at least it wasnt a dismal place of worry or sadness. Put another way, cancer is a club that no one wants to join but the people are really nice!

On those Thursday nights I would try to get as much rest as I could, since I would return to work early Friday morning.

Read Also: Breast Cancer Not Detected By Mammogram Or Ultrasound

What Do Chemo Rashes Look Like

The side-effects of chemotherapy on skin can present as different kinds of rash, but what do they look like? We take a look at the most common rashes and what they might look like.

Rashes caused by EGFR inhibitors:

About 90% of patients being treated with EGFR drugs get a rash within the first 1-2 weeks of treatment this is usually a spotty, pustular breakout, looking a bit like acne or perioral dermatitis. On pale skin it can appear red, and on all skin tones the skin can look inflamed and discoloured. The rash affects the parts of the body where there are sebaceous glands, ie the face, chin, chest and back.

Radiation recall rash:

Althought not strictly a ‘chemo rash’, if patients have already undergone radiotherapy before chemo, they are vulnerable to radiation recall rashes, also known as radiodermatitis, or radiotherapy-induced dermatitis. This shows up as hot, stinging patches of skin on areas that have undergone radiotherapy it looks a bit like sunburn. It can be swollen, itchy, dry, and in worst cases, blistered, cracked and open to infection.

Allergic reaction rash:

Some patients experience an immediate reaction to the drug infusion and break out in hives. Hives, also known as urticaria, are raised bumps or welts across the body.

General dry skin and sensitivity:

Check out our article How To Look After Your Skin Before, During & After Radio- and Chemotherapy for some other things you can do to keep your skin as healthy as possible.

Important Note

Practical Hints For Hair Loss

  • It is not always necessary to buy a real wig. Synthetic wigs can look as good and are less expensive, easier to care for, lighter in weight and may be more comfortable to wear.
  • Before possible hair loss, some people like to cut their hair short. The hair loss won’t be quite so shocking if there is less hair to lose.
  • Put a towel over your pillow so that clean up in the morning will be easier while you are shedding your hair.
  • Buy a drain catch for your shower. Other people choose to shave their head hair when hair loss begins.
  • Refer to our wig information sheet for places to shop near you.
  • Refer to the Friend to Friend Gift Shop or the Cancer Resource Center for more information.
  • When buying a wig, take a friend for emotional support and maybe even a laugh!

Also Check: Best Shampoo For Hair Loss After Radiation

Cost Of Oral Chemotherapy

Getting access to oral chemotherapy drugs may be somewhat complicated, depending on your prescription drug insurance coverage.

IV chemotherapy drugs have been part of cancer treatment for a long time, and the health insurance system is set up to process and approve these prescriptions relatively quickly and easily. An established system is in place that allows pharmacies to get pre-certification from the insurance company. They then fill the prescription, knowing theyll very likely be reimbursed by the insurance company. The patient doesnt usually have to be involved in this process.

Many oral chemotherapy drugs, however, arent part of this system yet. The pharmacy may not give you the drug unless you have confirmation that the insurance company has already approved it. If not, youre required to pay the pharmacy directly when you pick up the prescription. Most people are unable to pay cash for drugs that may cost between $6,000 – $12,000 per month.

We help our patients at CTCA with this process through our CTCA/Rx oncology pharmacy. Our pharmacy communicates with your insurance provider to get the authorizations you need to receive your medication, including oral chemotherapy drugs. Our pharmacy staff will also work with patient assistance programs to try to help you find financial support for your medications if your insurance denies coverage.

Check with the nonprofits related to your specific type of cancer, too.

Inside The Procedure Room

What does a chemo day look like?

Once youre in the procedure room, your healthcare provider will inject of local anesthesia. Local anesthesia is medication to numb an area of your body. Your healthcare provider will inject the anesthesia into your neck and chest.

You may also need general anesthesia to have your port placed. General anesthesia is medicine to make you sleep during your procedure.

Your doctor will make a small incision at the base of your neck . It will be about 1 to 1.5 inches long. They will make a second small incision of about 0.5 inches long on your chest, under your collarbone. Then, they will make a pocket under your skin. This will hold your port in place.

Figure 5. Incision sites for port placement

Your healthcare provider will place the catheter through the second incision and connect it to your vein.

Your care team will use sutures or surgical glue called Dermabond® to close your incisions. If you have sutures, they will be absorbed into your body. You will not need to have them removed. They may also use Steri-StripsTM. These are short, thin strips of surgical tape that are stronger than a regular bandage.

Your procedure should take about 1 hour.

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How Doctors Choose Your Treatment

The exact treatment plan that your doctor chooses depends on a number of things including:

  • the type of cancer you have
  • where it is in your body
  • if it has spread and where to

Your doctor will also take your general health and fitness into account. Some drugs have more of an effect on your body than others. Your doctor has to judge that you’re well enough to be able to cope with any side effects of the treatment before you start.

How often you have each cycle, and how long your treatment course lasts, also depends on many factors. These include:

  • the type of cancer you have
  • how the cancer cells respond to the drugs
  • any side effects from the drugs
  • Cancer and its management

    J Tobias and D Hochhauser

    Wiley Blackwell 2015

  • Cancer Principles & Practice of Oncology

    V T DeVita Jr., T S Lawrence and S A Rosenberg

    Wolters Kluwer 2019

  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures

    S Lister and others

Possible Late Effects Of Chemotherapy

Sometimes side effects do not go away, or they can develop months or years after treatment. These are called late effects.

Late effects may be minor and not affect your daily life much. Or, they may be more difficult to live with. There are usually things that can help you cope with them. Some late effects improve over time and may eventually go away on their own.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse can explain any possible late effects of your chemotherapy treatment. Different drugs cause different late effects. Some drugs may cause an early menopause and infertility. We have more information about how cancer treatment can affect fertility in men and fertility in women.

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What Is An Implanted Port

An implanted port is a type of central venous catheter . A CVC is a flexible tube thats put into one of your veins.

You may need to get medication in a vein larger than the ones in your arms. Your port lets the medication go into your bloodstream through your vein. It can be used to give you medication for several days in a row.

A port protects your veins from damage from repeated access. A port makes it easier for your care team to:

  • Collect blood samples.
  • Give you intravenous medication. This is medication thats put into one of your veins. Some IV medications, such as anesthesia and some types of chemotherapy , must go through a large vein.
  • Give you IV fluids.
  • Give you IV blood products, such as platelets and plasma.
  • Give you IV contrast. This is a special dye that helps your healthcare provider see your organs better.

Your healthcare provider will tell you if getting a port is best for you and your treatment.

A surgeon or interventional radiologist will place your port. An IR doctor is a doctor who is a specialist in image-guided procedures. They usually will place your port in your chest. A port sometimes can go into your upper arm instead. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about where your port will be placed.

Ports placed in the chest usually are about 1 inch below the center of your right collarbone . This allows for the most direct access to your vein. If you wear a bra, your port will be about 1 inch from where your bra strap lies.

New Hair New Look After Chemo

I have breast cancer

Caring for virgin hair and the changes and emotions you might expect

Virgin hair is a term sometimes applied to hair that grows in after chemotherapy. Many women are surprised to find that the color of their hair changes, the waviness goes from straight to curly or vice versa, or has a different texture than before. This holds true not only for hair on the head but for eyelashes, eyebrows, and pubic hair. In time, the color and texture of your hair will likely return to its pre-chemo state , but until then, special care is required. Let’s take a look at what you can expect not only with your hair, but your emotions during hair loss and regrowth.

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