Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy


Chemotherapy. Each year thousands of
people are diagnosed with cancer. If you or a loved one is among them, you are not
alone. Medical research has led to many treatments for cancer depending on your
type of cancer. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as a treatment for you.
Chemotherapy is a drug or a combination of drugs that fight cancer by slowing or
stopping the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy treatments can be a cure
for some patients or it can help to control the cancer. In some cases,
chemotherapy may be used to help ease some of the symptoms caused by cancer.
Chemotherapy may be the only cancer treatment you receive, but often you will
get chemotherapy along with surgery, radiation therapy or biological therapy.
You may feel nervous about getting chemotherapy, however, learning about this
treatment will help you to understand what to expect. Your doctor, along with a
team of healthcare experts will work together to create a treatment plan to
meet your needs. In some cases, you may be given information about clinical trials.
Your healthcare team may include doctors and training, residents and medical
students who may do a physical exam and talk with you as you get ready to start
chemotherapy. Tell your doctor about any medicines or pills you now take. Be sure
to include medicines prescribed by any doctor and any herbs, vitamins or
over-the-counter medicines. Some medicines may cause problems if taken
with your chemotherapy. Tell your doctor right away if any of these medicines
change during your chemotherapy treatments. Some chemotherapy medicines may affect
your ability to have children. It is important to talk to your doctor before
starting chemotherapy if you are planning to have children in the future.
Chemotherapy can be given in the hospital as part of your hospital stay
but it is most often given in an outpatient or clinic type setting. We
will go over what may happen on the day of chemotherapy. For some types of
chemotherapy, your doctor may order certain medicines for you to take before
you come for your appointment. You will also get information about eating or
drinking before your treatment. Plan to have someone drive you to and from each
appointment. Your chemotherapy visits can take several hours because you may need
to have tests done such as x-rays or blood drawn before you start your
treatment. Your blood will be tested to make sure your counts are high enough
for you to get your chemotherapy. Bringing a book or other quiet forms of
entertainment may be helpful. Please know that you will be given all the time you
need when it is your turn to see the doctor. Before your treatment can begin, a
number of safety checks will be done by the nurse and the pharmacist. These steps
take time to complete. You will be taken to a room with a chair or a hospital bed
to get your chemotherapy. A family member or friend can stay with you during the
treatment. However, if your family member or friend is sick, they should not come
with you to the appointment. Patients getting chemotherapy have a higher risk
for catching colds, the flu or other contagious diseases. It is important for
you to stay away from anyone who is sick at this time. Before your chemotherapy is
given, you will be asked about any allergies you may have and your health
history will be reviewed. Your vital signs which, includes your blood pressure,
pulse, breathing rate and temperature will be taken as well as your height and
weight. There are different ways of receiving
chemotherapy. For example, chemotherapy can be given as a pill by mouth or by
intravenous most often called an IV. Your doctor will talk with you about the best
way for you to get your chemotherapy. If your chemotherapy is to be given through
an IV, a nurse with special chemotherapy training will put in the IV or use your
port, such as a meta port to give your treatment. The chemotherapy drug may come
in a bag, bottle or syringe and will enter your bloodstream through this IV
or port. Getting chemotherapy should not be painful. If you feel any pain or
discomfort tell the nurse right away. Your comfort during the treatment is
important to us. Every person responds differently to chemotherapy treatment
and each chemotherapy drug can cause different side effects. Talk with your
doctor about side effects you may have. Based on your condition and treatment
plan, common chemotherapy side effects may include nausea, vomiting, constipation,
diarrhea, hair loss, taste changes, fatigue, depression, and sexual changes. For
example, a decreased desire for sexual activity. With certain treatments, you may
have other side effects, such as muscle pain, skin rash, and numbness, tingling or
a burning sensation in your hands or feet.
It is important to tell your doctor if you are having any side effects, so you
can be given information to help prevent or control these symptoms. Your doctor
may need to stop your chemotherapy until your side-effects improve or your
chemotherapy dose may need to be changed for future treatments to lessen your
side effects. Here are some tips on how to manage side-effects and take care of
yourself during your treatments: get plenty of rest with at least eight hours
of sleep each night. However, doing some gentle exercise each day may help you
feel better. Try to drink eight to ten eight ounce glasses of non-caffeinated
fluid each day. Eating five or six small meals each day instead of three larger meals
may help control an upset stomach or diarrhea. Your healthcare team can give
you a list of some foods to eat and also some foods to avoid. Use an electric
shaver instead of a razor to avoid bleeding. Use a soft toothbrush to help
keep your gums from bleeding or becoming sore to lower the chance of you getting
an infection. Wash your hands often with soap and water and stay away from people
that are sick. You should also be careful around animals. Do not clean your cat’s
litter box or pick up dog waste. Use lotion and sunscreen suggested by your
health care team to help with dry, itching skin or to prevent sunburn, stay
out of direct sunlight. In taking care of yourself, it is also
important to be aware of your emotions. It is normal to feel alone, afraid, sad,
angry or anxious. We know this can be a stressful time for you.
Your healthcare team is available to give you support and to share ways to
help you through this experience. It is always important to tell your health
care team how you are feeling. There may be times when you need to call the
doctor if something changes. You should call the doctor or nurse practitioner if
you have any of the following: a fever of 100 point 4 degrees or higher. When you
are getting chemotherapy, a fever can be life-threatening if not treated. Call if
you feel dizzy, lightheaded have shortness of breath or you find it hard
to breathe. You should call if you notice unusual
bruising or bleeding or excessive fatigue such as feeling tired all of the
time with or without activity. Call if you have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or
constipation that lasts for more than 48 hours after your chemotherapy treatment.
Let your health care team know if you find mouth sores including sores on your
gums or tongue, white patches in your mouth or have painful swallowing. It is
important to call the doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of infection such
as chills or you notice the skin where an IV was placed is now warm, swollen,
tender, sore or red. A rash, cough, headache or earache, a stiff
neck, bloody or cloudy urine, pain when urinating or a frequent need to urinate,
sinus pain or pressure. Now, let’s review some important points we have covered.
Some ways to care for yourself while you are receiving chemotherapy include, get
eight hours of sleep each night, drink eight to ten eight ounce glasses of
non-caffeinated fluids, eat five or six small meals each day, use an electric
shaver instead of a razor, brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush, wash your
hands often with soap and water, stay away from people who are sick, be careful
around animals to avoid infection. Take good care of your skin, be aware of your
emotions. It is important to call the doctor right away if you have a fever of
100 point 4 degrees or higher, you should also call if you have any of the
following: shortness of breath or if it is hard to breathe, feel dizzy or
lightheaded, unusual bruising or bleeding, feel tired
all of the time with or without activity, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, constipation,
mouth sores or white patches in your mouth or have pain when swallowing, any
signs of infection. We hope this information has helped you to better
understand what to expect when you get chemotherapy at The James and how to
care for yourself during this time. Write down any questions you might have
for your healthcare team and bring them with you to each appointment. We are
honored to care for you during your cancer treatment. Thank you for choosing
The James.

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