Cancer-Journey-In-treatment

In treatment

Overview

cancer treatment Some people who are going through cancer treatment feel that they can never get enough information. In contrast, some people would rather not focus on what is happening and prefer to let their healthcare team advise them.

In this section you can:

  • Learn about the different types of cancer treatment
  • Understand better what happens during treatment and how to get support
  • Find tools to support you through treatment
  • Learn more about managing side effects of treatment
Types Of Cancer Treatments

Surgery

Surgery Surgery treats cancer by removing tumours from your body. Most of the time, healthy tissue around the tumour will be removed as well as the tumour itself. This can help prevent the tumour from growing back. The surgeon may also remove nearby lymph nodes.

It takes time to recover from surgery. You may feel tired or weak after your operation. Before your surgery, your healthcare team will talk to you about how to deal with pain, and they may give you a prescription for medications to take afterwards.

It is very unlikely that surgery will spread the cancer in your body. Surgeons take special precautions to make sure that this does not happen, such as using a fresh set of tools on each part of your body if they are operating in more than one area. Exposing the cancer to air during surgery will not cause the cancer to spread.

Learn more about the Surgical Oncology Department at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center .

Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to treat cancer. Radiation can damage cancer cells, which stops them from reproducing, or it can kill them outright. The healthy cells around the cancer may also be damaged by radiation, but unlike the cancer cells, the healthy cells are able to recover.

Different types of radiation may be used for radiation therapy:

  • X-rays
  • Gamma rays
  • Charged particles

There are 3 different ways to deliver radiation therapy.

  • External-beam radiation therapy uses a machine outside the patient's body to deliver radiation to the cancer.
  • Brachytherapy (internal radiation therapy) uses radioactive material placed inside the body near cancer cells to deliver radiation to the cancer.
  • Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances that travel in the blood, such as radioactive iodine, to deliver radiation to the cancer.

The method that your doctors use to deliver radiation therapy will depend on things like the type and size of the cancer and where in your body it is located.

Learn more about the Radiation Oncology Department at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy Chemotherapy uses drugs to treat cancer. Many different types of drugs can be used as chemotherapy. What drugs you receive depends on the type of cancer you have and the goal of the chemotherapy treatment. Because there are many different types of chemotherapy, your experience may be very different from that of other people receiving chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy drugs can be used to:

  • Destroy cancer cells
  • Stop cancer cells from spreading
  • Slow the growth of cancer cells

Chemotherapy can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with other treatments. It can help other treatments work better. You may receive chemotherapy before or after surgery or radiation therapy.

There are many different ways to give chemotherapy to a person, including:

  • Intravenously (injected into a vein)
  • As a shot (an injection into a muscle)
  • Orally, as a pill or liquid that you swallow
  • Topically, as a cream or lotion that is rubbed onto your skin
    Chemotherapy may be delivered daily, weekly or monthly. Your schedule for chemotherapy depends on your individual circumstances.

Chemotherapy may be delivered daily, weekly or monthly. Your schedule for chemotherapy depends on your individual circumstances.

Learn more about the Medical Oncology Department at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center.

Stem Cell Transplantation

Stem Cell Transplantation Stem cell transplantation uses stem cells to treat cancer. Stem cells are a special type of cell that can develop into other types of cells. Stem cells help you recover from high-dose chemotherapy treatment by helping your blood cells to regrow.

Stem cell transplantation is usually used after a patient receives high doses of chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. The high doses of treatment destroy both healthy and cancerous cells in the bone marrow. Once the cancer cells have been destroyed, the patient receives stem cells to replace the ones that were destroyed.

Targeted Cancer Therapies

Targeted Cancer Therapies Targeted cancer therapies use drugs to block the specific molecules that help cancer cells grow and spread. Scientists call these specific molecules "molecular targets." Therapies that interfere with molecular targets are sometimes called "molecularly targeted drugs†or “molecularly targeted therapies."

Targeted therapies use many different types of drugs that are injected through a vein and travel through the bloodstream. Each drug works differently:

  • Tyrosine kinase inhibitors block certain proteins involved in cancer cell growth.
  • Apoptosis-inducing drugs help destroy cancer cells. These drugs can help chemotherapy work better.
  • Hormonal drug therapy is a targeted therapy because it targets cancer cells that have specific hormones. There are 2 types of hormone therapy.
    • Drugs can prevent the hormones from working or stop your body from producing them.
    • Surgery can remove the organs that produce hormones.
  • Biological therapies use the body's immune system to fight cancer or to lessen the side effects that some cancer treatments can cause.
  • Cancer vaccines and gene therapy are often considered to be targeted therapies because they interfere with the growth of specific cancer cells.

Not all cancers can be treated with a targeted therapy.

Treatment Decision-Making And Questions To Ask

Questions to ask You and your oncologist can work together to decide on the treatment plan that is right for you. Your oncologist will tell you of the treatment options available. Your oncologist can also tell you what kind of results you can expect and the side effects that each treatment may cause.

Remember, you are the most important member of your healthcare team. If there is something you don’t understand, or if you have a question, ask someone on your team to explain it to you. Staying informed and telling your team how you feel will help both them and you make the best decisions for your treatment and care.

It can be helpful to take notes. You may wish to have a friend or family member come with you to your appointments. They can help with note-taking, ask questions and be another set of ears to help you remember information.

Get ready for your cancer treatment by:

  • Talking with your doctor about what you can expect
  • Reading about side effects that might occur with each type of treatment and finding out what can be done to manage them
  • Talking in the waiting room or online with other people who have had cancer to learn what was helpful to them

Questions For Your Healthcare Team

Preparing for the experience of cancer treatment can reduce anxiety and stress. Write down any questions you have for your doctor before your appointment. You may wish to start with some of these:

Questions to ask before your treatment:

  • Are there things I should know about going through this type of treatment?
  • What are the expected side effects?
  • What problems should I report to you (for example, fever, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting)?
  • How do I reach someone if I have problems in the evening or on the weekend?
  • What can I do to prevent or control side effects that I experience?
  • Do I need to take any special precautions at home (in regards to children or pets, for example)?
  • Will I be able to continue my normal activities? Can I go to work?
  • Will this therapy affect my ability to have children?
  • Do you have any printed materials about my type of cancer and treatment?
  • Can you recommend any websites concerning my treatment?

Questions to ask about the treatment sessions:

  • How can I prepare for the treatment session?
  • How long will the session take?
  • Should I take someone with me?
  • Do I need a special diet during or after my treatment?
  • Can I drive myself to and from the treatment session?
  • Can I return to work after the treatment session?
  • What services are available to help me and my family cope?
Tests And Waiting For Results

Tests and waiting for results Testing is an important part of cancer diagnosis and treatment. You will be tested at many different points of your cancer journey.

Before you are diagnosed with cancer, your doctor will order tests to be done. These tests may include blood tests; biopsies; medical imaging such as x-rays, MRIs, ultrasound or CT scans; and other tests. The results of these tests can help your healthcare team determine whether or not you have cancer, and if you do, what type of cancer you have.

Many people think that after they are diagnosed with cancer the testing will end; in fact, you will be tested throughout your treatment and after your treatment has been completed. These tests help your healthcare team monitor your treatment and your health.

You can ask any member of your healthcare team about the purpose of the tests you are undergoing. They can explain to you how the test works and what it will tell them about your condition.

Find out more about the tests at KCCC and what you can expect.

Radiology Department

Nuclear Medicine Department

Waiting For Results

At various stages during your cancer experience, you may find yourself waiting to hear the results of a test. It could be a blood test, CT scan, X-ray, biopsy, nuclear medicine image or any of the many other types of tests that are used to detect cancer and the side effects of treatment. This waiting period can be very challenging. Patients sometimes refer to it as "scanxiety."

"Scanxiety" is very real and experiencing it is normal. You may notice that it changes slightly depending on the type of results you’re waiting for. For example, if you are just being diagnosed, you may be unsure about treatment options and how your life may change with a diagnosis of cancer. While you’re going through treatment, the result of a test may indicate whether your treatment is working or not. After treatment is finished, your concerns may be more about relapse or confirmation of a side effect, such as infertility or organ damage. Often a lot depends on these results, including the possibility of celebrating remission or the relief that can come with the diagnosis of unexplained symptoms.

In any case, waiting for results can be hard for many people. While everyone handles waiting differently, consider the following to help you out:

Acknowledge Your "Scanxiety" and Anticipation of Results

Sometimes trying to ignore how you feel takes more energy than being aware of your feelings.

  • Try talking to a friend or relative who listens well (chances are they may be anxious too, and relieved that you're talking about it).
  • You may prefer to write in a journal, where you can express your thoughts without having to go anywhere or share them with anyone.
  • Social workers are available to speak with you about how you feel.

Prepare To Receive Your Results

  • It is helpful to mark in your calendar the date when you expect to receive your results. Note whether you will receive them by phone or in a follow-up appointment with your doctor. This gives you something to focus on. If you’re not sure when or how you will get your results, you can ask your doctor or nurse.
  • Prepare a list of questions that you think you may have when you receive your results. What information will you need? It may be helpful to think back to when you last got a result for something, and what you needed to find out then or want to ensure you find out this time.
  • Who do you want with you when you receive your results? Would you like to take a family member or friend to your appointment? What would you like them to do to help out – provide a ride to the appointment, write down questions and answers or give you some time to process the results you receive? Make sure you tell your family and friends what you need and be open to the fact that they may need to seek support from other resources, too.

What Has Helped You Before?

  • If you find it helpful to keep busy with work or other activities while you’re waiting, try and plan to have something set up during this time.
  • Some people find it difficult to sleep while they’re waiting for results – you may want to speak to your doctor about this or seek support from other resources.
  • "Scanxiety" can make it difficult to concentrate on work or other activities – it’s important to do what works best for you during this time, and care for yourself as much as possible. This can include getting more rest, light exercise, talking or writing about how you feel, praying, listening to music, reading, sharing a laugh or watching a movie with family or friends – whatever you like best.
  • Think about what has worked for you in the past when you've waited for something important, or ask others for ideas.

As difficult as the waiting period can be, the results will come. In the meantime, it is important to help yourself get through the waiting in the best way possible. This may include acknowledging how you feel, preparing for the results, using what has worked in the past or trying new ways to deal with the wait so that you are most comfortable.

Understanding Your Prescription Medications

Understanding your Prescription Medications It is important to keep your doctors, nurses and pharmacists informed about any medications you are taking. It is also important to ask questions about how many medications may interact with one another. Use the practical tips below to help you understand your medications better.

Practical Tips:

  • Think about things in advance. Write down as many questions as possible before seeing your doctors, nurses and pharmacists. Be sure to have all your questions about your medications answered during your appointments.
  • Keep track of your medications and update all your prescription and non-prescription medication information (for example, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, eye drops, inhalers, patches and sprays) by writing them down. Give this information to your doctors, nurses and pharmacists and alert them to your medication history and medication allergies.
  • Update your doctors, nurses and pharmacists about recent changes in your medication's strength and directions. Tell them if you stop taking a medication, either because you were told to or because you decided to stop on your own. Tell them how you are taking your medications.

The following are other tips to think about and that you can ask your doctors, nurses and pharmacists:

  • Ask what your medications are for
  • Check that you are taking your medications properly
  • Discuss any problems you may have with your current medications
  • Get advice about taking your medications properly
  • Discuss how your prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medications may affect your cancer treatments

For further details, please speak directly with any pharmacist. Be sure to take all your medications with you when asking for more details about your medications.

Managing Side Effects

Managing Side Effects Whether you have just been diagnosed, are starting treatment or if your treatment is over, you may notice changes in yourself. You may be dealing with physical side effects of your cancer and its treatment, and you may be experiencing some emotions that you’re not sure how to handle. It is important to be aware of and monitor any physical concerns you have. It can be just as helpful to notice how you feel emotionally and how your feelings change over time as well.

This section is about managing your physical and emotional health as you go through your cancer journey. You can keep a daily journal where you write down and keep track of the side effects you experience at different stages of your recovery. Doing so will help you make sure you get the assistance you need, when you need it. It is also good to track how you’re feeling over time so that you can notify your healthcare team if any conditions worsen, or celebrate your progress as they improve.

Physical Side Effects

Physical Side Effects Your treatment may cause short-term and long-term physical side effects. You should talk to your doctor about what you can expect, and make sure your healthcare team is aware of everything you're experiencing so that you can get the care you need.

Some common side effects are:

Cancer-Related Fatigue

Cancer-Related Fatigue Cancer-related fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment. You might also feel tired long after your treatment is finished as well.

What is cancer-related fatigue?

Cancer-related fatigue is a feeling of being very tired that is not caused by daily activity and does not go away with rest or sleep. People experiencing cancer-related fatigue may describe themselves as feeling "worn out," "exhausted" or "heavy and slow." Cancer-related fatigue starts during treatment for cancer and may last for months after treatment is finished.

How common is cancer-related fatigue?

Cancer-related fatigue is a very common symptom of cancer and is also a side effect that occurs during and after cancer treatment.

  • 60 to 96% of people being treated for cancer experience cancer-related fatigue.
  • For about one-third of people, cancer-related fatigue can last for many months after treatment.

How will cancer-related fatigue affect me?

Cancer-related fatigue can affect many parts of your life. It can:

  • Make you feel like you have little or no energy or motivation for your everyday activities
  • Change your mood and the way you feel about yourself
  • Affect your ability to work your regular hours
  • Affect your relationships with the people in your life

How can I manage cancer-related fatigue?

  • Plan and prioritize your activities so that you can balance caring for yourself, household tasks, work and free time in your day.
  • Schedule rest breaks. Balance periods of rest and work. Pace yourself and take rest breaks throughout the day. If you need to take naps, keep them to less than an hour.
  • Ask for help with tasks and do only what you can. Remember that you can say “no.â€
  • Work towards regular exercise. Start slowly and add more exercise a little at a time. For example, start with 5 minutes of brisk walking 3 times a week, then increase by 2 minutes each week.
  • Make healthy eating choices. Spread your calories throughout the day, drink lots of liquids and eat a varied diet to work towards a healthy weight.
  • Keep a regular schedule for going to bed and getting up.
  • Talk to your doctor. Tell your doctor about your symptoms.
  • Remind yourself that it is OK to relax.
  • Check the Patient Education Program at KCCC for education pamphlets on Cancer-Related Fatigue

Managing Your Pain

Every person feels pain in a different way, and coping with pain can be hard work. If you experience pain, tell your doctor or nurse so they can help you.

When describing your pain, make sure you tell your healthcare team:

  • When and how often you have pain
  • If you have noticed that a particular activity brings on pain
  • How severe your pain is by rating it on a scale (you may use the scale below to rate your pain)
  • How you treat the pain – be sure to mention any medications you are taking to relieve the pain PainLevelChart.png
    Pain Level Chart

There are many ways to control your pain. Speak with your healthcare team to determine the best ways to provide you with relief from pain.

Dealing With Your Emotions

Dealing with Your Emotions During and especially after treatment many people start to process their cancer experience and how it may have changed them. You may be thinking about your life differently in terms of what's important for you now. It is helpful to take time to notice these changes, and to talk or write about how you want to handle them.

Everyone experiences different emotions and has different emotional needs during their cancer experience. Many people continue to feel anxious after treatment and to worry about recurrence. This is completely normal, as are all the other emotions you may be feeling. It is important for you and your family and friends to acknowledge these emotions.

It can be very helpful to talk to others who have been through cancer treatments and who may be feeling the same thing. There are also many different ways to get the support that you and your family and friends need as you’re dealing with these emotions. Some examples are listed below.

Ways to manage:

  • Speak to your doctor
  • Talk to a psychologist
  • Prayer
  • Volunteer
  • Get involved with the cancer community
  • Keep a journal
  • Light exercise and relaxation

Keep track of how you feel and side effects you may experience by writing regularly in a journal.

Caring For Yourself

Caring for yourself In addition to the physical effects of cancer and its treatment, there are also emotional and practical effects. When people are first diagnosed with cancer, they tend to focus on the medical aspects of the illness. But it quickly becomes clear that this medical diagnosis also affects other parts of life, such as your family, finances, friendships, household tasks, ability to sleep and so on.

Many people who have completed cancer treatment have commented that it is important to pay attention to the non-medical areas of your experience with cancer. In particular, you need to take care of yourself, ask for extra support and adjust your commitments to account for the time and energy involved in participating in and recovering from treatment. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. It simply reflects how much a diagnosis of cancer demands.