What to Expect with Chemotherapy
Depending on the type of cancer and where the tumors are located, chemotherapy is delivered intravenously, orally or in a process called infusion.
If your chemo is delivered intravenously, you can expect to have the treatments in your oncologist's office, a clinic, or in some cases, during a hospital stay. Usually, the chemotherapy drug is injected into a vein or muscle. Once in the bloodstream, the drugs travel to all parts of your body including the cancer tumors.
How long your appointment takes depends on the type of drugs you are taking. Receiving some chemotherapy drugs take a relatively short period of time, while others may take hours.
If you undergo frequent chemotherapy, you may have a "line" surgically inserted so that you won't need to have repeated needle pricks. If your treatments are to go on for a significant length of time, you may learn to give yourself chemotherapy injections at home.
In some cases, your tumor may be injected directly with the drugs. With isolated infusion, the chemo drug is injected or infused directly into the tumor and surrounding tissue. This allows a very high dose of toxic chemotherapy drugs to be used while reducing damage to the rest of your body.
Some cancers, especially colon cancer, respond to drugs taken orally. You may be given a prescription for the chemotherapy drugs and take them on a schedule just like any other prescription drug. It's important to keep your oncologist informed of any side effects.
Number of treatments
How often you receive chemo depends on the type of cancer you have and the drug or combination of drugs you receive. Some key points about the frequency and timing of your treatments are:
Different types of chemotherapy drugs target the growth patterns of specific types of cancer cells. As the cancer cell goes through its life cycle, the drug you are taking may be designed to be effective at a specific time in that cancer cell's cycle. This will affect the timing and frequency of your treatment.
While effective at killing cancer cells, chemotherapy drugs can be extremely toxic to your body, so your dosage needs to be carefully adjusted and monitored.
Each safe treatment of chemotherapy kills just a fraction of the malignant cells in a tumor, so you will need to undergo repeated doses in cycles. To give your body a chance to repair itself, chemotherapy is given in cycles of dosing and rest.
The frequency and durations of the cycles is based on your body's response to the toxicity of the chemo treatments. A cycle can last 1 or more days. A cycle is typically given every 1, 2, 3 or 4 weeks. A typical course of chemotherapy may consist of multiple cycles.
Based on your own health, your personal values and desires, you can work with your Riverside Cancer Care team to come up with the best regimen for you.