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Cancer Glossary Cancer Diet Guide Support Groups


Chemotherapy is a common type of cancer treatment. It consists of drug (mono-chemotherapy) or a cocktail of many drugs (poly-chemotherapy) that can be given a number of ways. The drugs were designed to kill cancer cells in the body in order to shrink or eliminate cancerous tumors.


Preparation for The Procedure: If you have been diagnosed with cancer, your oncologist will talk with you about a plan for treatment. If the course of treatment ordered is chemotherapy, your doctor will determine the amount you will need and how often you will receive the therapy.  If you are receiving chemotherapy intravenously, you may need a catheter implanted into your body to avoid regular needle pain and damage to your vein. This is a way to administer the chemotherapy without having to inject the medicine into your veins each time. Chemotherapy is a strong drug and most of it is caustic and if it gets on your skin, it can burn.  By administering the chemotherapy into a catheter, this protects your skin from ever having to touch the chemotherapy.   


Procedure:  If you are receiving chemotherapy intravenously, you will be taken into a room where you can lie down on a bed or in some cases, into a room with several other people to be hooked up to an IV drip.  The chemotherapy will enter your bloodstream and go to work at destroying the cancer cells.  If you are receiving chemotherapy through an injection, your skin will be prepared and the shot will be administered by a nurse or doctor. In other cases, chemotherapy is given in a pill form that you take at home and there is no in office procedure.  Talk to your doctor about the course of treatment you will receive and what the procedure will be like.   


Method of Giving Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is given in several different ways. The first is intravenously.  The medicine is placed into bags and you receive the treatment through an IV drip in a hospital. Another type of treatment used is a chemotherapy injection into the muscle or other part of your body.  Chemotherapy also comes in pill or liquid form that you swallow. There are also chemotherapy creams that are rubbed on the skin. 


Recovery Time: Recovery time depends on the type of chemotherapy received, the duration of the treatment and the individual.  Some people who receive chemotherapy are able to go to work the same day, while others take a few days to recover. It all depends on the course of treatment and how your body reacts to it.  


Risks & Side Effects: Although chemotherapy was designed to kill cancer cells, it often affects other parts of your body that are not affected by the cancer. Some patients go through chemotherapy with little or no side effects at all, but others experience several side effects.  They may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, hair loss, weight loss, and mouth sores. And because chemotherapy kills fast growing cells, you may have some blood related side effects such as lower white cell counts.  A complete blood cell count will be taken by a doctor.  Because white cell count may be lower due to receiving chemotherapy, patients may be more susceptible to illness and risk of infections.  Patients will need to stay away from people with colds or other sicknesses. 


It’s also advised to stay away from people who have received the flu vaccine by nasal mist and not to get vaccinated themselves during their course of treatment. Your doctor will be able to help you if you experience any side effects.  There are anti-nausea drugs that can be given to help ease the nausea or vomiting.  There are also oral solutions that can be given to help with the mouth sores. It’s important to remember that you are receiving chemotherapy because the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.  



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