This is a brief summary of the most commonly asked questions by cancer patients. It does NOT include all information about conditions, illnesses, injuries, tests, procedures, treatments, therapies, discharge instructions or lifestyle choices that may apply to you. It is highly advisable to talk with your health care provider for proper information about your health and treatment options. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to accept your health care provider’s recommendations.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells in your body. This is often called chemo. It may be used together with surgery, radiation, and other drugs to treat cancer. Chemo may be given daily, weekly, or monthly.
Chemo is given based on the type of cancer you have, your overall health, earlier cancer treatments, and your goals. Chemo can be:
Cancer cells grow faster than other cells in your body. Chemo targets fast growing cancer cells; however, some of your normal cells may be affected too. Your goal for chemo will depend on the kind of cancer and how much is in your body. Chemo helps to treat cancer. For some people, this means decreasing the pain from cancer. For others, it means curing the cancer.
Some chemo may cause you to lose hair since these are fast growing cells. Once your chemo is complete, your hair will grow back.
Some chemo may brittle your nail. Once your chemo is complete, your nails will return back to normal. Characteristics of brittle nails:
Some chemo may cause oral problems. Once your chemo is complete, your mouth will return back to normal. Characteristics of oral toxicities:
It is expected to get low White Blood Cell (WBC) count after receiving anti-cancer treatment. Low WBC count means that your immunity is low. if you have a health lifestyle, spontaneous recovery of WBC will be the rule. But until that happens, it is very easy to get infection from the surroundings. Caring of your body is very integral to pass this critical period. The duration that your body will take till full recovery and return of your WBC count to normal values is different from one person to another. So, it is highly advisable to talk to your doctor to know the exact information about your treatment, the expected adverse events, and the recommended precautions.
Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or you think you are pregnant.
Your doctor will take your history. Talk to your doctor about:
If chemo is given through an I.V.:
There are lots of different chemo drugs. Some may make you feel very weak and tired within a couple of hours, while others may take several days. After a couple of treatments, you will be able to see a pattern in the way your chemo drugs affect you. This will help you make plans for your daily activities.
Ask your doctor what you need to do when you go home. Make sure you ask questions if you do not understand what the doctor says. This way you will know what you need to do.
Take your drugs as ordered by your doctor.
You may feel tired for a few days. Plan for that by changing your work schedule, getting help with taking care of the kids and meals. Take short naps during the day. Plan to try and rest on the days you find most tiring after each chemo treatment.
Eat a healthy diet and drink fluids. Healthy foods will help give your body the strength to complete your chemo treatments. Eat small meals more often instead of 3 large meals. Set specific times throughout the day to eat. Drink milkshakes, smoothies, soups, or juices if you are not able to tolerate solid foods.
Your hair may start to fall out. Protect your scalp from the sun. Use sunscreen and wear a hat or scarf when you go outside. Some women may prefer to wear a wig.
You may feel numbness or tingling in your hands or feet. Tell your doctor right away. Ask for help from family and friends if it affects your daily activities.
Take good care of your teeth and mouth.
Your doctor will ask you to make visits to the office to check on your progress. Be sure to keep these visits. Your doctor may talk to you about more treatments.