How Do Cancer Patients Get Chemo
Oncologists and hematologists prescribe a treatment protocol based on the latest research for different types of cancer.
Protocols vary depending on the diagnosis. Different combinations of drugs can be administered over many cycles. Depending on the diagnosis, it could be a 10-week cycle repeated 10 times, or a single cycle of nine treatments in combination with surgery or radiation.
When people hear the word chemo they are likely to picture an IV, since it is one of the most common routes for administering these drugs, and it is often portrayed this way in TV shows and films. Chemo can also be taken by mouth or injected into different parts of the body like the spine, an artery, body cavity, a muscle, or the tumor itself. It can also be applied topically.
Most chemotherapy is done at a hospital, but it can also be administered at home or at a doctors office. Whether your protocol is long or short, we have got some tips for getting through it.
Following Your First Treatment
After your first treatment, try to rest, commented Dr. Swaney. You may not feel side effects right away, but your body is hard at work, battling alongside your new medication. Patients often ask how much time they will need away from work or how much help they will need at home. While this varies according to the treatment regimen, it is common to be off work on treatment days and sometimes several days afterwards. You will generally be able to continue many activities but may need more help with things like food preparation, shopping and the like. Often, you will learn during your first few treatments how you are affected.
Your medical team is focused on your well-being and will meet with you regularly to discuss how you are doing and how the cancer treatment is progressing. During follow-up visits, you are encouraged to speak plainly about any difficulties you are experiencing so that your treatment or associated medications can be modified if needed. During treatment, your medical team may recommend scans of your body to check on progress. There are various scans used to assess the cancer. These scans provide important milestone information that your team will use to modify your treatment plan if needed.
Reducing Your Risk Of Infection And Bleeding
You can help reduce the risk of infection and bleeding by:
- Regularly washing and drying your hands thoroughly
- Cleaning any cuts and grazes and cover with a dressing or plaster
- Avoiding people who are unwell or may be infectious
- Eating as healthily as possible, and following any advice about food and drink given to you by your hospital
- Drinking plenty of fluids
Also Check: Does Chemo Brain Ever Go Away
Fear Of Cancer Coming Back
After treatment, many people might be afraid that their cancer will come back . You may become concerned about new symptoms youre having and wonder if theyre related to breast cancer.
Its important to talk with your healthcare provider about any new symptoms you notice. Many of these issues are normal parts of healing and your body returning to a new normal after breast cancer treatment. Your healthcare team is always available to discuss your concerns or fears with you.
You can call or send messages to your doctor or nurse through MyMSK . It may also be helpful to talk with a social worker, therapist, or chaplain. You can also join a support group. For more information, read MSK Support Services.
How Often Will I Need Chemotherapy
The length of your treatment plan depends on what kind of cancer you have and how well it responds.
Most people have chemo in cycles, with a break between them so the body can rest.
In most cases, your doctor can give you a general idea of how long you will continue chemo. It’s possible for this to change during treatment.
Don’t Miss: 67 72 Chevy Truck 4 Core Radiator
Who Is On My Chemotherapy Team
A highly trained medical team will work together to give you the best possible care. Your team may include these health care professionals:
Medical oncologist. This type of doctor specializes in treating cancer with medication. Your medical oncologist works closely with other team members to create your overall cancer treatment plan. They also lead your chemotherapy treatments.
Advanced providers, like oncology nurse practitioners and oncology physician assistants . These providers meet with patients and collaborate with a supervising medical oncologist. Their responsibilities can include:
Giving physical examinations
Ordering and interpreting laboratory and diagnostic test results
Prescribing and administering medications and other therapies, including chemotherapy
Providing education and counseling for patients and families
Oncology nurse. An oncology nurse specializes in cancer care. This includes giving chemotherapy. Oncology nurses can also:
Answer questions about treatment
Monitor your health during treatment
Help you manage side effects of treatment
Other health care professionals. Other team members may help care for your physical, emotional, and social needs during chemotherapy. These professionals include:
Learn more about the oncology team.
Receiving Your Chemotherapy Infusion
Chemotherapy infusion is usually done through an IV, where the drugs can be delivered directly into a vein usually on the hand or lower arm. Please let the nurse know if you have any burning, redness or swelling at the IV site during your treatment. Depending on the type of cancer you have, the drugs you are receiving and the duration of your treatments, you may receive your chemotherapy through a catheter, port or pump:
Catheters are soft, thin tubes placed in a larger vein than those in your arm. The catheter remains in place between treatments avoiding the needle stick of starting a new IV. Blood can also be removed through this catheter. Intrathecal catheters may be placed in your spinal canal to deliver drugs into the spinal fluid rather than the blood system. Intracavity catheters are placed directly into a cavity such as the chest, belly or pelvis for local delivery of the chemotherapy drugs and removed once therapy has been injected.
Ports are small, round discs placed under the skin to which a catheter can be attached during treatment sessions. Though you can feel it, if it is properly placed and kept clean, there should be no discomfort. A port is removed when chemotherapy is completed.
Also Check: Fighting Cancer Without Chemo Or Radiation
What To Expect On Your First Day Of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy. It’s not a word people want to hear and certainly not something they want to go through. But, for those of us with cancer, we often don’t have a choice. I remember how terrified I was of getting my first chemotherapy treatment. Would I be sick? Would I have a reaction to the medication? Would I be in a room by myself or with other chemo patients?I really didn’t know what to expect the first day. However, almost 4 years later, I feel like a pro.
Practical Hints Regarding Fever And Infection
- If you have a fever of 101° Fahrenheit or above, with or without chills, call your doctor or nurse immediately. If you cannot reach your cancer specialist, go to an emergency room.
- Keep a thermometer in your home and know how to take your temperature. Do not eat, drink or smoke for 10 minutes before taking your temperature. Leave the thermometer under your tongue for three minutes. If you are still unsure of how to take your temperature, ask your doctor or nurse.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water to prevent infection.
- Avoid rectal intercourse, tampons, douches, enemas and rectal thermometers.
- Do not eat raw foods such as sushi and sashimi, Caesar salad or milk shakes made with raw eggs, until you complete chemotherapy and your blood counts have returned to adequate levels. Raw foods may carry bacteria that can lead to infection. Make sure to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables.
- Wash hands and cutting boards well after food preparation.
- Always tell your doctor before going to the dentist.
The table below will help you understand your temperature in both Fahrenheit and Centigrade:
Remember, always call your doctor if you have a temperature of 101° Fahrenheit or higher.
Don’t Miss: What To Say To Someone Starting Chemo
The Rest Of Your Life
Cancer and chemo really bite. Theres no doubt about it. But heres one of the perks you have just joined a club of people who have some pretty cool things in common. You may now have a new sense of humor that will lighten your heart at the darkest moments, as well as a new appreciation for life and hair
So, do not worry, get ready. You now know what to expect during chemotherapy. Youve got this.
How Does It Work
Chemotherapy fights cancer by targeting and killing fast-growing cells in the body. This is because cancer cells grow and divide quickly. Unfortunately, that means that chemotherapy also targets healthy cells in the body. When healthy cells are destroyed, side effects occur.
Chemotherapy fights cancer by interrupting the cell cycle. Any time a new cell is formed, it goes through the process of becoming a mature cell. During this period of maturing, chemotherapy targets cells at different points in the cell cycle.
Normal cells that are targeted by chemotherapy are typically located in the:
- Bone marrow
There are several different forms of chemotherapy, including:
Other types of cancer treatments include:
- Targeted therapies: These drugs are similar to chemotherapy because they kill cells during the cell cycle. The advantage of targeted therapies is that they are able to target cancer cells and spare healthy cells.
- Hormone therapy: Hormones affect certain types of cancers and cause cancer cells to grow and reproduce. Hormone therapy targets the cancer cells and keeps them from being able to use the hormones that naturally occur in the body.
- Immunotherapy: This treatment works to boost the immune systems response to cancer cells so that it can better target and destroy them.
You May Like: Whats The Cure For Cancer
There Are Different Types Of Chemotherapy
I have metastatic disease now, meaning cancer has spread to more than one place in my body. So I dont get the type of chemo most people think of through an IV, typically in the hospital, called infusion chemo. Instead, for my chemo, I take pills every day. And I only have to go to the hospital once a month for an injection. The injection helps promote healthy bone growth since the cancer is attacking my bones.
With the pills, I still have the usual and unusual side effects of chemo, although they are milder than before when I had infusion chemo. Pain is a way of life, and only time will tell how Ill feel as my condition progresses.
How Chemotherapy Drugs Are Given
Most chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer are given by vein in an outpatient setting at a hospital or clinic. Often, a combination of 2 or 3 chemotherapy drugs is used.
At each visit, an IV is inserted into your arm, allowing the drugs to drip into the bloodstream.
A few chemotherapy drugs are pills.
Also Check: How Long Does Radiation Last In An Area
Pain Or Nerve Changes
Some of the drugs used for chemotherapy may cause changes in your nervous system. These changes can be temporary or permanent. Other changes in the body can cause pain as well. It is important to talk with your doctor or nurse about any pain or nerve changes you may be having. Your cancer treatment center may have a pain or palliative care clinic or team that you can work with to manage your pain.
Can I Work During Chemotherapy
It depends on the work that you do and on how you feel. On days you donât feel well, you may want to see if you can work fewer hours or work from home. In some cases, employers are required by law to adjust your schedule when you have cancer treatment. A social worker may be able to help you learn about what the law allows.
Also Check: What Are The 3 Types Of Cancer Genes
Handling Trash Or Laundry
Use Nitrile® gloves to handle laundry soiled with chemotherapy to keep it from coming in contact with your skin. Wash your hands before and after removing the gloves.
If possible, wash contaminated laundry right away. If you cannot wash it right away, place it in a leak-proof double plastic bag and wash as soon as possible. Run them through the washer twice using laundry soap and color safe bleach.
Place gloves and gowns and soiled items into a leak-proof double plastic bag.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy
Patients are sometimes reluctant to ask questions, but I tell my patients that any question is an important question when it comes to their cancer care. Oncologists deal with cancer every day, but its all new to the patient. Getting your questions answered will help you make informed decisions about your care.
Think about your questions before your appointment. Write them down and bring them with you. I also recommend bringing a family member or friend to take notes during the appointment because its easy to get overwhelmed by information.
Here are some questions to consider asking your doctor about chemotherapy:
- What drug or drugs are you recommending?
- Whats the goal of this treatment?
- How long will I be on it?
- How do I receive it?
- How often do I have to come in? Can someone come in with me?
- If Im taking this drug at home, where do I store it? How often do I take it? What if I forget to take it?
- What are the potential side effects? Are you going to give me anything ahead of time to deal with them?
- Am I likely to have long-term side effects from this drug?
- Who do I call if Im at home and I have a question?
- What kind of support is there to help me through this treatment?
- Is there any support for my caregivers?
If you think of more questions after your appointment, call back and ask them.
If you start chemotherapy and your experience is different from what you expected, talk to your care team. They may be able to make changes that help you.
You May Like: Low Back Pain Radiating To Groin
Practical Hints Regarding Neuropathy
- Tight shoes and socks can worsen pain and tingling, and may lead to sores that won’t heal. Wear soft, loose cotton socks and padded shoes.
- If you have burning pain, cool your feet or hands in cold, but not icy, water for 15 minutes twice a day.
- Massage your hands and feet, or have someone massage them for you, to improve circulation, stimulate nerves and temporarily relieve pain.
Prepare Your Chemo Bag
Like packing for a trip, packing a chemo bag can make you feel a little more prepared for the experience. Most chemo days will be extremely long and exhausting. So, all the things I brought were for entertainment, comfort and side effect management.
For entertainment bring a book, music or a deck of cards. Sleep also helps pass the time. Also, I loved the relaxation that the chemo sessions afforded me. With no where to go, there wasn’t much else I could do but rest. Moreover, there were a few times I brought my computer and worked, but I would not suggest doing that. The drugs are taxing enough on your body. There is no reason to add mental stress to the mix.
If you can bring a companion it always makes the experience suck a little less. My husband came with me to every single session and this was a wonderful blessing. Also, he made me laugh, helped pass the time and drove my tired ass home each time. He made sure I never felt alone in the process. So, if your spouse can’t come with you, bring a friend or family member.
Chemo Bag Essentials
Don’t Miss: Is Chemo Or Radiation Worse
Contact Us About Chemo Treatment At Upmc Hillman Cancer Center
To learn more about chemo or other medical oncology treatments at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, call us at 412-647-2811 or 855-960-0578.
All the Things to Bring to Chemo: An Essential List for Your First Appointment
Use this information as a checklist to simplify your chemotherapy appointments by knowing what to take with you.
Things To Know Before Your First Chemo Treatment
It’s only natural that you would have questions and maybe even worries prior to your first chemotherapy treatment. Your care team will discuss your chemotherapy plan in advance, which can help ease your anxiety. Still, there’s a lot to learn and absorb.
Here are eight things to know so you feel more confident and prepared going into your first chemo session.
Also Check: Best Cancer Treatment Centers In The World
The Ways Patients Can Receive Chemo
Methods of chemotherapy administration include:
- IV push: The medication is given through an intravenous catheter with a syringe over a few minutes.
- IV infusion: The medication is given intravenously through tubing and is usually controlled by an IV pump.
- Continuous infusion: The medication is given intravenously over one to several days.
- Oral: The medication is given in the form of a pill or capsule and swallowed by mouth.
- Topical: The medication is placed directly on the skin in the form of a cream or ointment.
- Intrathecal: The medication is delivered to the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord via a catheter.
- Intra-arterial: The medication is put into a major artery that supplies blood to the tumor.
- Intracavity: The medication is given through a catheter to a body cavity such as the bladder or abdomen.
- Intramuscular: The medication is injected into a muscle with a syringe.
- Intralesional: The medication is placed directly into the tumor through a needle.
- Intravesical: The medication is placed into the bladder through a soft catheter.
Depending on the type of chemo given, you may receive your treatment in an outpatient clinic, hospital, doctors office, infusion center, or your home.