Sunday, March 3, 2024

What To Expect With Chemo And Radiation

When Chemotherapy Is Used

First time with chemo and radiation cancer treatment

Chemotherapy may be used if cancer has spread or there’s a risk it will.

It can be used to:

  • try to cure the cancer completely
  • make other treatments more effective for example, it can be combined with radiotherapy or used before surgery
  • reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after radiotherapy or surgery
  • relieve symptoms if a cure is not possible

The effectiveness of chemotherapy varies significantly. Ask your doctors about the chances of treatment being successful for you.

When Is One Therapy Better Than The Other

Sometimes, one of these treatments can be more effective than the other in treating a particular type of cancer. Other times, chemo and radiation can actually complement each other and be given together.

When you meet with your cancer care team, your oncologist will give you the options that will be most effective in treating your type of cancer.

Together with your cancer care team, you can decide on the treatment option thats right for you.

Chemo and radiation are sometimes used together to treat certain types of cancers. This is called concurrent therapy. This may be recommended if your cancer:

  • cannot be removed with surgery
  • is likely to spread to other areas of your body
  • isnt responding to one particular type of treatment

With both chemotherapy and radiation, theres a high likelihood of experiencing some side effects. But that doesnt mean you cant do anything about them.

Here are some tips to cope with the

Your Bone Marrow And Blood

Chemotherapy can reduce the number of blood cells made by the bone marrow. Bone marrow is a spongy material that is found in the middle of your bones. It makes special cells called stem cells. These develop into the different types of blood cells:

  • red blood cells, which carry oxygen to all parts of the body
  • white blood cells, which fight and prevent infection
  • platelets, which help the blood to clot and prevent bleeding and bruising.

You will have regular blood samples taken to check the number of these cells in your blood. This is called a full blood count.

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If Youre Getting Radiation Therapy To The Head Or Neck

People who get radiation to the head and neck might have side effects such as:

  • Soreness in the mouth or throat

How to care for your mouth during treatment

If you get radiation therapy to the head or neck, you need to take good care of your teeth, gums, mouth, and throat. Here are some tips that may help you manage mouth problems:

  • Avoid spicy and rough foods, such as raw vegetables, dry crackers, and nuts.
  • Dont eat or drink very hot or very cold foods or beverages.
  • Dont smoke, chew tobacco, or drink alcohol these can make mouth sores worse.
  • Stay away from sugary snacks.
  • Ask your cancer care team to recommend a good mouthwash. The alcohol in some mouthwashes can dry and irritate mouth tissues.
  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt and soda water every 1 to 2 hours as needed.
  • Sip cool drinks often throughout the day.
  • Eat sugar-free candy or chew gum to help keep your mouth moist.
  • Moisten food with gravies and sauces to make it easier to eat.
  • Ask your cancer care team about medicines to help treat mouth sores and control pain while eating.

If these measures are not enough, ask your cancer care team for advice. Mouth dryness may be a problem even after treatment is over. If so, talk to your team about what you can do.

How to care for your teeth during treatment

Radiation treatment to your head and neck can increase your chances of getting cavities. This is especially true if you have dry mouth as a result of treatment.

What Can I Expect At My First Radiation Treatment Appointment

What to Expect When Having Radiation Therapy

What to expect during radiation treatment for cancer depends on whether you are having external beam radiation therapy or internal radiation therapy, also called high-dose-rate brachytherapy.

Your first radiation therapy appointment wont include any actual radiation therapy. Instead, youll come in for a CT scan, which is used to help plan your radiation therapy. You will be positioned as you would during treatment usually lying flat on your back and scans will be taken of the area of the body that will be treated. You also will have tiny permanent marks that will guide the targeting of the radiation therapy during treatment. This appointment takes about 30 minutes.

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Chemotherapy Is An Individual Experience

Every person experiences chemotherapy differently, both physically and emotionally. Each person experiences side effects from chemotherapy differently, and different chemotherapy drugs cause different side effects. Fortunately, as the science of cancer treatment has advanced, so has the science of managing treatment side effects.

Whatever you experience, remember there is no relationship between how the chemotherapy makes you feel and whether you derive benefit from it.

Many people feel fine for the first few hours following chemotherapy. Usually, some reaction occurs about four to six hours later. However, some people don’t react until 12 or even 24 to 48 hours after treatment. Some people experience almost all of the side effects described below, while others experience almost none.

We have many treatments to help you deal with side effects. Please let us know how you are feeling so we can address your concerns and help make you more comfortable.

Your well-being is very important to us. There is a delicate balance between the benefits of chemotherapy and the harm of possible side effects. Please tell your doctor if you feel that the harm outweighs the benefit.

Getting Started With Chemotherapy

Once you’re in the infusion suite, the nurse will order your chemotherapy cocktail and any pre-medications that are required from the pharmacy. It usually takes at least 30 minutes for the drugs to arrive. Some of the pre-medications may be steroids, anti-nausea medications and/or anxiety medications. Each doctor will send an order to the infusion room telling them what chemotherapy and pre-medications to administer. In the meantime, your nurse will access your “Power Port” or “Port a Cath,” if you have one, or will just start an IV in your arm.Your nurse will begin with a saline solution through your IV. As soon as the medications are delivered, your nurse will hang the bags of medication on the IV stand and then start the different IVs. You’ll be given pre-medications first, then the chemotherapy.

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Chemotherapy For Esophageal Cancer

Chemotherapy, or medical oncology, uses powerful drugs to kill cancerous cells and prevent them from coming back. It is one of the most common cancer treatments.

  • In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cells ability to grow and reproduce. Immunotherapy, a related treatment, works by strengthening the bodys natural defense systems against cancer.
  • Often, treatment for esophageal cancer includes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy before surgery.
  • Chemotherapy can cause many side effects like nausea, hair loss and increased risk of infection. Your medical team will work with you to manage pain and any other side effects during your treatment.

Possible Late Effects Of Chemotherapy

Chemo and Radiation | Cancer Treatment Week 1

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 Happens During External

What happens during your radiation therapy treatment depends on the kind of radiation therapy you receive. External-beam radiation therapy delivers radiation from a machine outside the body. It is the most common radiation therapy treatment for cancer.

Each session is generally quick, lasting about 15 minutes. Radiation does not hurt, sting, or burn when it enters the body. You will hear clicking or buzzing throughout the treatment and there may be a smell from the machine.

Typically, people have treatment sessions 5 times per week, Monday through Friday. This schedule usually continues for 3 to 9 weeks, depending on your personal treatment plan.

This type of radiation therapy only targets the tumor. But it will affect some healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. While most people feel no pain when each treatment is being delivered, effects of treatment slowly build up over time and may include discomfort, skin changes, or other side effects, depending on where in the body treatment is being delivered. The 2-day break in treatment each week allows your body some time to repair this damage. Some of the effects may not go away until after the treatment period is complete. Let your health care team know if you are experiencing any side effects so they can help relieve them. Read more about the side effects of radiation therapy.

What To Expect Before During And After Chemotherapy Treatment

You may receive chemotherapy during a hospital stay, at home or as an outpatient at your doctors office, clinic or hospital. Outpatient means you do not stay overnight. Treatment schedules for chemotherapy vary widely.

How often and how long you get chemotherapy depends on:

  • Your type of cancer and how advanced it is.
  • Whether chemotherapy is used to cure your cancer, control its growth or ease symptoms.
  • The type of chemotherapy you are getting.
  • How your body responds to the chemotherapy.

You may receive chemotherapy in cycles. A cycle is a period of chemotherapy treatment followed by a period of rest. For instance, you might receive chemotherapy every day for 1 week followed by 3 weeks with no chemotherapy. These 4 weeks make up one cycle. The rest period gives your body a chance to recover and build new healthy cells.

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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.

What Can I Expect If I Am Receiving Internal Radiation Treatment For Cancer

Radiation and Chemotherapy  Information and Resources

Sessions for internal radiation therapy last longer than external beam radiation treatments, but there are fewer of them. Internal radiation therapy for cancer may be completed in one session or a series of three to five sessions about a week apart.

During internal radiation therapy, you will be given local anesthetic to numb the area being treated. A catheter or catheters small tubes sometimes called ports or applicators will be placed at the site of the tumor. Radioactive material is then delivered directly to the tumor through the catheters. The radiation therapy comes in many forms, including pellets, seeds, ribbons, wires, needles, capsules, balloons, or tubes. Depending on the type of radioactive material used, it will be left in place for only a couple of minutes and then removed or it may be left in permanently. Radioactive material that is left in permanently gradually wears off over the course of a few weeks until it no longer gives off radiation.

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What Can I Expect If I Am Receiving External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation treatment for cancer is typically administered every day, Monday through Friday, for five to eight weeks. About two weeks after your first radiation therapy appointment when you have the simulation scan, youll begin your treatments.

Each visit will be relatively short, lasting between 15 and 30 minutes. Most of that time will be spent lying on a table while the radiation therapist gets the equipment set up around you.

At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, we utilize image-guided radiation therapy, or IGRT. During each visit, new X-rays or low-dose CT scans of your body will be made and compared with the initial scan to determine if the tumor has moved even by just a hairs distance and the radiation is adjusted accordingly.

Our dosimetrist check and calibrate our equipment daily and the equipment will not run if it is not calibrated correctly. All of this is done to ensure your safety and the effectiveness of treatment.

You will be asked to lie still for the actual treatment, which will last only a few minutes. The treatment itself is painless and is similar to getting an X-ray. You may hear clicking and whirring sounds during the treatment as the machine positions itself. During the treatment, the radiation therapist will be in a small room adjacent to your treatment room and watching you at all times. You will be able to communicate with your radiation therapist via intercom and should feel free to ask to stop if you feel sick or scared.

Changes In How Your Kidneys Work

Some chemotherapy drugs can affect how well your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked with a blood test regularly during chemotherapy treatments.

You may be given fluids through a drip before and after the treatment. This is to keep your kidneys working normally. The nurses may ask you to drink plenty of fluids. They may also ask you to record how much fluid you drink and the amount of urine you pass.

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When Will I Start Getting Radiation Therapy

After you leave your first appointment with your radiation oncologist, they will use your scans to map out the exact location of the cancer within your body as well as noting the location of any surrounding healthy organs that need to be avoided during treatment. Computer modeling is then used to simulate the dose of radiation that will be delivered to the tumor during treatment, and the model is reviewed before your treatment begins. This process can take up to two weeks before you return for your first actual radiation therapy treatment.

When your treatment plan is developed, it will outline whether you will be receiving radiation therapy before, during, or after other treatments. Once you are ready to begin radiation therapy, you can usually be seen within one to two days at Rocky Mountain Cancers Centers.

What Else Do I Need To Know About Radiation Therapy Treatment Appointments

What to Expect During Chemotherapy

During your treatment period, your radiation oncologist will check how well radiation therapy is working. Typically, this will happen at least once a week. If needed, they may adjust your treatment plan.

While being treated, many people experience fatigue and sensitive skin at the site of radiation therapy. You may also experience emotional distress during radiation therapy. It is important to rest and take care of yourself during radiation therapy. Consider these ways to take care of yourself:

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Practical Hints For Menopausal Symptoms

  • If you have breast cancer, we DON’T recommend hormone replacement therapy.
  • Eat soy products or take vitamin E to reduce hot flashes.
  • Your doctor may recommend prescription medications for hot flashes.
  • Wear light cotton pajamas to help prevent overheating when sleeping.
  • Use vaginal moisturizers on a regular basis or other water-based lubricants as needed, especially during and before sexual activity. These products will help with vaginal dryness and irritation.

Nausea And Vomiting Due To Chemo And Other Drugs That Treat Cancer

You may hear treatment-related nausea and vomiting also referred to as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting . If you’re getting a drug to treat cancer, be sure to talk to your cancer care team about what kind of drug it is and how likely it is to cause nausea and vomiting.

There are different types of nausea and vomiting, depending on when they happen.

Acute nausea and vomiting usually happens within minutes to hours after treatment is given, and usually within the first 24 hours. This is more common when treatment is given by IV infusion or when taken by mouth.

Delayed nausea and vomiting usually starts more than 24 hours after treatment and can last up to a few days after treatment ends. Its more likely with certain types of chemo or other drug to treat cancer. Ask your doctor if the treatment youre getting is known to cause delayed nausea and vomiting.

Anticipatory nausea and vomiting is a learned or conditioned response. It appears to be the result of previous experiences with treatment that led to nausea and vomiting, in which the brain pairs some parts of the treatment such as the sights, sounds, and smells of the treatment area with vomiting. Anticipatory nausea and/or vomiting can happen before or during treatment is given.

Breakthrough nausea and vomiting happens even though treatment has been given to try to prevent it. When this happens, you may need more or different medicines to help prevent further nausea and vomiting.

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