These tests can give your doctor an idea of how your cancer is responding to treatment, and your treatment may be adjusted accordingly. Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease. Chemotherapy care at Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version.
Overview Chemotherapy is a drug treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic. Share on: Facebook Twitter. Show references Chemotherapy and you: Support for people with cancer.
National Cancer Institute. Accessed Feb. Niederhuber JE, et al. Cancer pharmacology. In: Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. Philadelphia, Pa.
What is chemotherapy?
What to expect when having chemotherapy. Cyclophosphamide Cytoxan. American College of Rheumatology. Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. So, to treat some cancers of the brain or spinal cord, medicines may be injected into the fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. This is done by a lumbar puncture when a needle is inserted into the space next to the spinal cord in the lower back.
Usually a course of chemotherapy is given in cycles. A cycle is a spell of treatment followed by a rest from treatment. For example, you may have a dose of your medicine s on one day, or several doses over a few days. You may then have a rest from treatment for weeks. This allows your body to recover from any side-effects. This also gives a chance for damaged, normal cells to recover before the next spell of treatment.
Treatment cycles are commonly every weeks but vary depending on the cancer being treated and the medicines used. The length of a full course of treatment is often about six months. So this may consist of about six cycles of treatment over the six months. However, a full course of treatment can vary and may be shorter or longer than six months and consist of fewer or more cycles.
You may have tests such as scans or X-rays at various times to see how well the treatment is working. These can help to guide a doctor as to how long to continue treatment or even to change the medicines used if the treatment does not seem to be working. You will also have regular blood tests to check on your blood count see below and may also have other blood tests to check that your liver and kidneys continue to work well and are not being affected by the medicines.
Most people have chemotherapy treatment as an outpatient. You may have to spend a few hours at hospital for each dose of treatment. Some treatment cycles require a day or so in hospital as an inpatient. Some people have some of their chemotherapy treatment at home.
Safety at home for patients on chemotherapy - Cancer Institute NSW
They have a line inserted into a vein, as described above, and wear a small portable device to gently pump a medicine solution into the line over a set period of time. Cytotoxic medicines are powerful and often cause unwanted side-effects. Cytotoxic medicines work by killing cells which are dividing and so some normal cells are damaged too. However, side-effects vary from medicine to medicine. Even with the same medicine, different people can react differently. Some people develop more severe side-effects than others who take the same medicine. Sometimes, if side-effects are particularly severe, a change to a different medicine may be an option.
Some of the most common and important side-effects are listed below.
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Other side-effects can occur. Your doctor or chemotherapy nurse will be able to discuss with you the likely side-effects you may experience with the particular medicines you will be receiving.
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Also, you can read a full list of possible side-effects of any medicine on the leaflet from the manufacturer. At the end of this section there is a checklist of symptoms which you should report straightaway to a doctor if they occur whilst you are on a course of chemotherapy. Tiredness fatigue is a common side-effect. It is likely that you will feel more tired than normal during a course of chemotherapy.
You may need to cut back on your normal activities, plan regular rests and, if possible, take some regular light exercise. Some people feel overwhelmingly tired and may need to rely on other people to do routine daily chores. It can be common to feel sick during and after each cycle of treatment. Try to drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel like it, to prevent lack of fluid in the body dehydration. Sucking ice cubes is one tip to increase your fluid intake. Anti-sickness medication will usually help and is commonly taken at the same time as, or just before, a cycle of chemotherapy.
There are different types of anti-sickness medication. If one does not work well, a change to a different one may work better.
Why it's done
Cytotoxic medicines can affect the bone marrow. You make red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the bone marrow. Problems which may occur include:. Prior to each cycle of treatment, it is usual to have a blood test to check on your blood count. This checks the level of your red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. If any of these are too low then a treatment cycle may be delayed, the choice of medicines may be altered or you may be given treatment to boost the levels of these blood constituents.
The cells which line the mouth are affected by some cytotoxic medicines. This may lead to a sore mouth, a dry mouth or other mouth problems. Routine good mouth care will help to prevent mouth problems from developing or from becoming more serious. If possible, do the following either yourself or with the help of a carer:.
If you develop a dry mouth then simple measures such as frequent sips of water and chewing sugar-free gum will often help and be all that is needed in many cases. Artificial saliva or medication to stimulate the salivary glands is sometimes used, which your doctor can prescribe for you. See separate leaflets called Mouth Care and Dry Mouth. Category Latest News. Written By: Amanda Dobbs.
If your loved one has nausea and vomiting, offer them smaller meals throughout the day or have some simple snacks on hand so they can eat when they feel hungry. Encourage them to stay hydrated by offering them small sips of water, apple juice, or other cool, clear fluids. If their nausea is bothering them, ask the doctor if there are drugs available to help control it. If they bleed or bruise easily, help keep them from getting nicks and cuts and remind them to avoid physical activities that might cause them to bruise.
Buy a soft bristled toothbrush to avoid bleeding gums, and, if possible, buy an electric razor that will reduce the chances of cuts while shaving. Thoroughly clean any cuts and scrapes that you see and apply an antibacterial ointment and a clean bandage. If you notice that a cut or scrape is bleeding excessively or will not stop, call your doctor. Wash your hands often, and keep shared surfaces clean and sanitized.
Ask friends and family who have recently been sick to visit only by phone. Pay attention to food safety , too; cook food thoroughly and serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold to keep harmful food-borne bacteria at bay.
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