DefinitionChemotherapy is a treatment used to kill cancer cells. It involves taking medications that are toxic to fast-growing cells like cancer cells.
Reasons for ProcedureChemotherapy is used to treat cancer. The goal is to reduce the number of cancer cells or decrease the size of tumors.
Side EffectsMany types of chemotherapy drugs not only damage the cancer cells but can also damage some of your normal cells. This can create side effects. Side effects will vary between chemotherapy treatments. Your doctor will review a list of possible side effects for your treatment type. Some side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Appetite loss
- Hair loss
- Low red blood cell count — anemia
- Weakened immune system and increased infections
- Easy bruising and/or bleeding
- Mouth sores
- Numbness and tingling sensation in the hands and/or feet, or weakness due to nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Damage to the heart muscle
- Interruption of the menstrual period
What to Expect
Prior to ProcedureYou may be asked to take some pre-medications such as:
- Allergy medications, such as an antihistamine
- Anti-nausea medications
Description of the ProcedureYour doctor will talk to you about the best way to deliver the medication(s). Chemotherapy drugs may be given by:
- Catheter tube into the bladder, abdomen, chest cavity, brain, spinal cord, or liver
- Injection into a muscle
- Application to the skin
|Chemotherapy Delivery Through the Cardiovascular System|
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How Long Will It Take?How long it will take depends on the method used, the number of medications, and the amount of each medication. A session may be as brief as the time it takes to swallow a pill. It could also take several hours or last overnight. Some types of chemotherapy can be given as a continuous infusion through a portable pump.
Will It Hurt?The treatment may cause a number of uncomfortable side effects. The delivery of the chemotherapy usually does not hurt.
Average Hospital StayMost often, you can leave after the medication is delivered. Some chemotherapy treatments will require a stay in the hospital. This may be about 2-3 days.Your doctor may choose to keep you in the hospital if you have complications, such as severe vomiting.
Post-procedure CareAt the HospitalYou may be given any of the following:
- Medications to take at home, such as anti-nausea medication
- Injections of an immune-system or blood cell boosting drug
- Other drugs, including steroids, allergy medications, sedatives, and antibiotics
- Get a lot of sleep.
- Try to do some physical activity each day. Exercise can help to reduce fatigue.
- Try to eat a healthy diet.
- Drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration .
- Try to avoid people with diseases that can be spread easily, including children. Chemotherapy will likely weaken your immune system. Viral illnesses, such as the cold or flu, can have serious effects.
- Tests of your bodily fluids may be done with:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Bone marrow biopsies
- Imaging tests may include: