What to expect while having chemotherapy?
Prior to your chemotherapy, it is quite normal to feel worried or anxious. The process of chemotherapy takes place in three steps; before, during and after chemotherapy. At the time of your chemotherapy, a team of extensively trained medical professionals works together to give you the finest possible care.
Usually, people have heard a lot about the side effects of chemotherapy. This naturally makes them scared before getting their first chemotherapy. This information may help you prepare for it.
I’ll walk you through the whole process.
- Meeting with doctor
- Signing the consent form
- Getting chemotherapy
- After chemotherapy
A team of highly skilled medical professionals work together to give the best treatment possible. The medical team includes:
- Medical oncologist: A medical oncologist is a doctor who specializes in treating cancer. They are usually responsible for your chemotherapy treatment.
- Oncology nurse: An oncology nurse takes care of the patients who are suffering from cancer. He or she gives chemotherapy to the patient. The oncology nurse keeps track of the patient’s health during the chemotherapy treatment.
- Other medical professionals: There are other medical professionals included in the team like nutritionist, pathologist, psychiatrist and social worker.
Before the start of chemotherapy
- Meeting with the oncologist: Before the chemotherapy treatment starts, you need to meet an oncologist. The oncologist will review all your medical reports and do a physical examination. There will be certain tests done which will decide how the chemotherapy treatment will take place.
The chemotherapy treatment depends on the following factors:
- Type of cancer
- Age of the patient
- Current health of the patient
- Permission granted by the patient
During consultation, the medical oncologist will discuss about the risks and benefits of the chemotherapy. There will be a consent form and if the patient agrees, then he or she will have to sign the form.
- Food and medicine chart
Prior to the treatment, your medical team will tell you what you are supposed to eat, drink or avoid during the chemotherapy treatment. If you are taking any prescribed medicines, do inform your medical oncologist in advance.
Essential things to bring to chemotherapy
- A blanket and pillow: Chemotherapy can take from a few minutes to few hours so a blanket and a soft pillow can bring more comfort to the patient.
Also, a patient can sleep or relax comfortably during the chemotherapy.
- Dress in layers: Chemotherapy can make your body temperature vary from time to time. So, sometimes you may feel cold and sometimes, hot. So dressing in layers is suggested. You should bring a sweater and socks along with you because you may feel cold. While dressing up for chemotherapy, prefer V - neck clothes so that nurses can place port easily.
- Medical records: Though your medical team has the copy of your records, yet, you should bring your medical records with you for your reference. Sometimes, you have to visit your medical oncologist at a different location and you have to visit different location for chemotherapy so this will create an ease in summarization of the diagnosis.
- You will meet your medical team who are going to take care of the chemo.
- Before the actual treatment, you will undergo a physical exam to check your BP, pulse rate, breathing and temperature.
- An IV tube will be attached to your arm.
- Blood sample will be taken.
How long one chemotherapy will take?
Depending on your case, it can take few minutes, few hours or few days if you are having continuous infusion. For continuous infusion, you need not stay in the hospital.
After the chemotherapy
After the chemotherapy is done, the IV will be removed by the nurse. If a port is inserted, then it will remain till the last treatment. The nurse will check the BP, pulse rate, breathing and temperature once again.
Your oncologist or nurse will discuss with you about the chemotherapy side effects and ways to manage.
Note: Make sure you drink lots of fluids so that the chemotherapy drug can move easily in your body.
Safety measures after chemotherapy treatment
- Toilet safety: Flush the toilet twice as the medicine stays in the body for almost 48 hours. If there are any splashes of any toilet on the seat, it should be cleaned immediately with the bleach wipes. If you are a male, then you need to sit and urinate.
- Personal hygiene: Wash hands with soap and water after using the washroom.
- Use condoms: Use condom during sex after chemotherapy session.
- Incontinence: If problem of incontinence exists, then use diapers or disposable pads.
- Handling and washing clothes: Wash bedsheets and clothes which contain body fluids separately. If washing in a washing machine, then choose the longest cycle.
- Keep medicines in a safe place: All the capsules, injections or tablets must be kept as per the advice of the oncologist because they require special storage to keep them safe.
- Never break tablets: Never break, crush, chew or cut the tablet. If there is difficulty in swallowing, then ask your oncologist to prescribe you an alternate preparation (e.g. liquid) if available.
- Use a plastic bucket: Vomit in the plastic bowl, bucket or bag and never use it for other purpose. Throw it once the final chemotherapy session ends.
Benefits of chemotherapy
- The main benefit of chemotherapy over any other treatment for cancer is that while surgery and radiation remove or kill the cancer cell in a particular area, chemotherapy works throughout the body. This means that chemotherapy attacks the cancer cells that have spread in different parts of the body.
- Chemotherapy can either shrink the cancer cells, slowdown its growth or completely eliminate it from the body.
- 6In case of terminal illness, when cure is impossible, chemotherapy helps in relieving symptoms and makes the person live longer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question and Answers (399)
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