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What To Expect With Chemo

Chemotherapy For Esophageal Cancer

What to Expect During Chemotherapy

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.

How You Might Feel About Losing Your Hair

For many of us, the way we feel about ourselves is closely linked to the way we look, and so losing your hair can be devastating. You may feel anxious at the thought of losing your hair, or angry and unhappy that this has happened in addition to your cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Some people feel guilty about being upset when they lose their hair as they feel there are other, more important things to worry about. However, theres no right or wrong way to feel and whether you lose some or all of your hair, the experience can be very distressing.

Hair loss is such a visible side effect of treatment, and can change how you look and view yourself. Men and women often express negative feelings about losing the hair from their head. Men with breast cancer may also find the experience of losing the hair from their chest difficult.

Hair loss may also make you feel vulnerable and exposed. You may see it as a constant reminder of your treatment, labelling you as a cancer patient or feel that hair loss has prevented you keeping your diagnosis private. Some people find that they adjust quickly to hair loss. Others find that it takes longer, or is more difficult to accept and adapt to than they imagined.

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When Do Radiation And Chemotherapy Side Effects Start

You may experience side effects within a few hours of treatment as is the case with certain chemotherapy treatments that gradually begin to improve. Or you may not experience side effects until youve completed several treatment sessions, as is sometimes the case with radiation. Talk to your healthcare provider about when youre most likely to experience side effects based on your treatment type and schedule.

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There Will Be First Chemo Treatment Side Effects

You may feel side effects of your first chemo treatment in the hours after your session. Most are temporary, but plan on resting so your body can begin the recovery process.

Chemo treatment side effectssome of which you may experience after your first treatment, others not until several sessionscan include:

  • Fatigue: You may feel tired or very fatigued the day after your first treatment. This differs from tiredness that can be cured with sleep. It may feel like profound lack of energy you can’t seem to shake.
  • Nausea and vomiting: It is normal to experience nausea and vomiting after chemo.
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms: You may be constipated or have diarrhea after chemo.
  • Sore mouth: Sometimes chemo can make your mouth feel dry and sore.
  • Flu-like symptoms: You may have aches and pains a few days after your first treatment that feel similar to flu symptoms.
  • Insomnia: It’s common to have trouble falling asleep or to wake often at night when you’re on chemo.
  • Hair loss: Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, but you won’t experience it immediately after your first treatment. It usually begins 2 to 4 weeks later.
  • Memory problems or problems concentrating: Chemotherapy can cause cognitive problems like short-term memory loss or trouble concentrating.

If you feel mentally foggy from the medications you’ve taken, let your healthcare provider know.

How Do You Get Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

Pin by Danielle Bremer on Chemo care

You get chemotherapy as a pill or in a vein daily, weekly, or every 2-4 weeks. You may get one drug or a combination of them. Your treatment plan is designed for your particular situation.

If your veins are hard to find, you may get a catheter in a large vein. These devices are inserted by a surgeon or radiologist and have an opening to the skin or a port under the skin, allowing chemotherapy medications to be given. They can also be used to give fluids or take blood samples. Once chemotherapy is finished, your catheter will be removed.

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How Does Intravenous Delivery Work In Chemotherapy

Needle: Drugs may be sent through a thin needle in a vein on your hand or lower arm. Your nurse inserts the needle and removes it when treatment is done. Tell your doctor right away if you feel pain or burning during treatment.

Catheter: Itâs a soft, thin tube. Your doctor puts one end into a large vein, often in your chest area. The other end stays outside your body and is used to deliver chemotherapy or other drugs, or to draw blood. It usually stays in place until all your treatment cycles are finished. Watch for signs of infection around your catheter.

Port: Itâs a small disc that a surgeon places under your skin. Itâs linked to a tube that connects to a large vein, usually in your chest. A nurse may insert a needle into your port to give you chemotherapy drugs or draw blood. The needle can be left in place for treatments that last more than a day. Tell your doctor if you notice any signs of infection around your port.

Pump: Often attached to catheters or ports, it controls the amount of chemotherapy drugs, and how fast they get into your body. You may carry this pump with you, or a surgeon may place it under your skin.

Always Ask The What If Questions

A secondary or underlying condition can cause serious damage. I have an underlying bleeding disorder, which caused a rare side effect, hand-foot syndrome. This caused a slow leakage of blood from the small capillaries in my hands and feet, which soon developed into major bleeding. As a result, I had to stay in the hospital for five days and lost eight toenails.

Brain fog can make you feel mentally out of it. Plus, your hormones may be all over the place .

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How Will I Feel During Chemotherapy

Thereâs no way to know for sure. It depends on your overall health, the type of cancer you have, how far along it is, and the amount and type of chemotherapy drugs. Your genes may also play a part.

Itâs common to feel ill or very tired after chemotherapy. You can prepare for this by getting someone to drive you back and forth from treatment. You should also plan to rest on the day of and the day after treatment. During this time, it may help to get some help with meals and child care, if necessary. Your doctor may be able to help you manage some of the more severe side effects of chemotherapy.

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Chemotherapy may be used if cancer has spread or theres 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.

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Skin And Nail Changes

Some drugs can affect your skin. It may become dry or slightly discoloured. Your skin may also be more sensitive to sunlight during and after treatment. Tell your cancer doctor or nurse if you develop any skin changes or rashes.

Chemotherapy can affect your nails. They may grow more slowly or break more easily. You might notice ridges or white or dark lines across your nails. Sometimes nails can become loose or fall out. When treatment finishes, any changes usually disappear as the nails grow out.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice changes to your nails. They can give you advice or arrange for you to see a podiatrist for foot care advice if needed.

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:

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.

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How Chemo Cures Cancer

There are three goals of chemotherapy: cure, control, and provide palliative care.

The first goal of chemotherapy is always to cure cancer. This is possible when chemotherapy effectively kills all of the cancer cells in the body and prevents them from coming back. However, a cure is not always possible.

The Rest Of Your Life

10 Tips to Help you Manage Chemo Therapy Side Effects

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.

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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.

The Conclusion Of Chemotherapy

Once you have finished chemotherapy, you naturally look forward to your life returning to normal. The National Cancer Institute states that many patients are surprised at the need to create a new normal way of life during the first few months of chemotherapy.

Some people find that life takes on new meaning and they feel a greater sense of urgency to make a difference than they did before treatment. Others feel frustrated at the changes they must make to feel better long-term, such as a complete overhaul of their diet. The way you feel is just fine. Every cancer patient needs to make peace with their life after treatment.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.


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When To Contact Your Doctor

Please dont hesitate to call your doctor at the UHC Cancer Center if you have any of these problems after chemotherapy:

  • Pain or burning when you urinate
  • Chills, fever, or sweats since these could be signs of infection
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache that doesnt go away
  • Extreme lethargy or weakness
  • Drainage, redness, or swelling from any spot where you had an IV line
  • New blisters or skin rashes

Transportation Lodging Child Care And Elder Care Assistance

Preparing for Chemo: What to Expect

If you do not live near the treatment center, it can be hard to get to and from chemotherapy sessions.

If you need a ride to and from treatment, or have child or elder care needs that make getting to treatments difficult, there may be resources available.

Family and friends often want to help, but dont know how. These may be ways for them to get involved. Its OK to ask for help.

There are also programs that help with child and elder care costs.

Komen Financial Assistance Program

Susan G. Komen® created the Komen Financial Assistance Program to help those struggling with the costs of breast cancer treatment by providing financial assistance to eligible individuals.

Funding is available for eligible individuals undergoing breast cancer treatment at any stage or living with metastatic breast cancer .

To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN or email .

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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.

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.

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Talk To Your Doctor About Pre

In some cases, doctors may prescribe medication to ease symptoms before they start. Before beginning your chemotherapy treatment, ask your doctor about possibly pre-treating symptoms you may be concerned about, such as nausea.

Keep in mind that every treatment center is different. To prepare, ask your healthcare professional what amenities and services will be available.

How Often Does Stage 1 Breast Cancer Come Back After Treatment

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If stage 1 cancer is treated comprehensively, it rarely comes back. A new, unrelated breast cancer is more likely to emerge after stage 1 breast cancer is treated than a recurrence. Your healthcare provider will recommend a surveillance schedule for you so that new breast cancer or a recurrence can be identified and treated as quickly as possible.

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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.

Coping With Other Peoples Reactions To Hair Loss

You may feel that losing your hair means that you will need to tell people about your diagnosis when you would prefer not to, however, its up to you who you tell. Some people tell just their family and close friends, while others are happy to let everyone know.

People will respond to you losing your hair in different ways, and you may find some reactions difficult to understand.

A change in appearance may make you feel less confident about socialising with friends and family. However, withdrawing from your social life may make you feel more isolated or that your diagnosis is preventing you from doing the things you enjoy. Many people find continuing to meet up with others is a useful distraction and helps to keep some normality.

You may feel anxious about other peoples reactions at first, but these feelings should gradually improve over time. It might help to talk to others who have experienced hair loss.

If you have children, whatever their age, you may wonder what to tell them about your breast cancer. Your children may find it upsetting to see you without any hair and it might help if you prepare them for the fact that this may happen. Studies have shown that children are less anxious if they know whats happening, and that it can be less frightening for them to know what is going on even if they dont fully understand. Read our tips about talking to children about breast cancer.

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