Cancer can be treated with different types of drugs, including chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy and supportive drug therapy. Each drug works in a different way to treat cancer. To learn more about how these drugs work, how they are given, and possible side-effects visit chemotherapy and other drug therapies.
You can find helpful information about how to prepare for your appointments and what to bring by visiting preparing for appointments.
You need a referral from your oncologist for chemotherapy and other drug therapies.
Before your treatment
If you get your cancer drugs by intravenous (IV), a special long-term IV may be inserted. The most common long-term IVs are peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) or port-a-caths (PORTs). Long-term IVs are inserted so that you are not repeatedly poked by a needle to start a new IV.
Before the first day of each treatment session you will likely have blood tests done. The blood tests make sure your body is healthy enough to receive treatment. Your cancer care team will examine you, look at your blood test results and decide whether treatment can begin. This may happen a day or two before treatment. You will be told if your treatment needs to be delayed or the drug dose needs to be reduced.
During your treatment
You will likely get some medication before treatment to prevent possible side effects like nausea or an allergic reaction. The nurse will start an IV in your arm and may also give you some other fluids through the IV.
Once your cancer drugs are prepared by the pharmacy, a nurse will start giving your drugs through your IV. You will get your drugs while sitting in a comfortable chair or lying on a stretcher. While you get treatment, the nurse and pharmacist will talk with you about your cancer drugs. They will tell you about managing possible side effects and answer any questions you may have.
The nurse will check on you often to make sure you are not having any reactions from the cancer drugs. This may include taking your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and oxygen levels) regularly. Most patients do not feel pain or anything unusual while they get their cancer drugs. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, tell your nurse immediately.
After your treatment
Your nurse will remove the IV in your arm. If you have a special long-term IV, the nurse will clean out the device.
You will likely get a prescription for medications to help with side effects. Make sure you understand the instructions for taking these medications to help your side effects.