Preparing for Chemotherapy

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Fox Chase Cancer Center Information

National Cancer Institute Publications

Chemotherapy and You 
Find out how to obtain the Booklet

Eating Hints:  Before, During and after Cancer Treatment  
Obtain a booklet with information and recipes to help patients meet their needs for good nutrition during treatment.

American Cancer Society

Understanding Chemotherapy:  A Guide for Patients and Families

Nutrition for the person with cancer during treatment

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 

Chemotherapy and Your Mouth

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Returning Patients

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Preparing for Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs for treating cancer. Before your treatment begins, you will have certain tests to assess your condition and determine which chemotherapy drugs are best for you. The tests may include chest X-rays, blood or urine tests, CT scans or an EKG (electrocardiogram).

Your doctor and nurse will explain the chemotherapy procedure to you. Chemotherapy is given in cycles. This gives your body a chance to build healthy new cells and regain its strength. The number of treatments and how often you receive them depends on the kind of cancer you have, the goals of the treatment, the drugs used and your body's response to them. You may get chemotherapy every day, every week, or every month.

Types of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy varies, depending on the type of cancer you have and the drug(s) you receive. You may get treatment in one or more of the following ways:

  • Orally (pill or liquid form)
  • Topically (applied to the skin)
  • Intramuscularly (injected into a muscle)
  • Subcutaneously (injected under the skin)
  • Intravenously (injected into a vein)

Chemotherapy by mouth, on the skin or by injection feels the same as taking other medications by these methods. Intravenous chemotherapy feels like having blood drawn for a lab test, but the needle stays in place longer.

Chemotherapy also may be delivered to specific areas within the body by a tube called a catheter. The catheter can be placed into the spine, abdomen, bladder or liver.

You may get your chemotherapy as an outpatient in the Infusion Room of our Outpatient Department, during a Hospital stay or at home. The decision about where you receive your chemotherapy depends on which drug or drugs you are getting.

Daily Activities

Eating well is important while you are undergoing treatment. Better nutrition helps you cope with side effects and fight infection more easily. If you lose your appetite, your doctor, dietitian or nurse can help you with hints about eating.

Most people are able to continue working while they are being treated with chemotherapy. If the treatment makes you tired, you might consider adjusting your work schedule for awhile. Federal law requires many employers to accommodate for treatment needs.

Side Effects

Chemotherapy drugs are made to kill fast-growing cancer cells. But certain normal, healthy cells also multiply quickly. Chemotherapy affects these cells as well. When it does, side effects occur. Some of the more common side effects include nausea, vomiting, temporary hair loss, fatigue and loss of some blood cells.

Your doctor and nurse will explain the specific side effects of your chemotherapy before you begin treatment. Then you will be asked to sign a consent form saying you understand the possible effects of your treatment. Your doctor and nurse can give you tips on managing the side effects, so remember to tell them if you have any.

Receiving Your Treatment

The actual time it takes to receive your treatment will depend on the drugs you are getting and how you are getting them—by injection or infusion. Treatment may take a few minutes or several hours. One family member or a friend may sit with you during your treatment. Children under the age of 12 are not allowed in the Infusion Room.

TVs and portable CD players with headphones are available to patients. The Infusion Room also has a wireless connection. Patients are welcome to bring their laptops or you may borrow one through our Laptop Lending Program.
Outpatient Chemotherapy Process

Monitoring Your Progress

Throughout your treatment, you will have periodic physician exams, blood tests, scans and X-rays to measure how well your treatments are working. Don't hesitate to ask the doctor about the test results and what they show about your progress. If you have any questions or concerns, call your doctor or nurse at 215-728-4300.

Preparing for Chemotherapy
Preparing for Chemotherapy (Part 1)
(24 min.)
Fox Chase offers a free video for patients, called “Preparing for Chemotherapy.”

In this one-hour presentation, you will learn from a Fox Chase nurse and social worker what to expect from your treatment and how to manage possible side effects.
If you are about to begin chemotherapy, we strongly recommend this video. 
(Part 2 is below.)

Preparing for Chemotherapy

Preparing for Chemotherapy (Part 2) 
The emotional effects of chemotherapy, and how to cope.
(20 min.)