Chemotherapy is any treatment involving the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. Cancer chemotherapy may consist of single drugs or combinations of drugs, and can be administered through a vein, injected into a body cavity, or delivered orally in the form of a pill. Chemotherapy is different from surgery or radiation therapy in that the cancer-fighting drugs circulate in the blood to parts of the body where the cancer may have spread and can kill or eliminate cancers cells at sites great distances from the original cancer. As a result, chemotherapy is considered a systemic treatment.
More than half of all people diagnosed with cancer receive chemotherapy. For millions of people who have cancers that respond well to chemotherapy, this approach helps treat their cancer effectively, enabling them to enjoy full, productive lives. Furthermore, many side effects once associated with chemotherapy are now easily prevented or controlled, allowing many people to work, travel, and participate in many of their other normal activities while receiving chemotherapy.
Being informed about chemotherapy and its potential side effects can help you to proactively manage your own care and optimize your treatment and outcome.
Things you may need to know include the following topics:
How is chemotherapy delivered?
Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects
Understanding and Monitoring Your Blood Count
When to Call Your Doctor
Frequently Asked Questions
The development of any of the following symptoms during your chemotherapy treatment may indicate a serious condition. If you experience any of the following throughout your cancer treatment, please inform your doctor.
- Fever higher than 101º F
- Shaking chills
- Vomiting that continues 48 hours after treatment
- Bleeding or bruising
- Shortness of breath/chest pain
- Severe constipation or diarrhea
- Painful or frequent urination
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Soreness, redness, swelling, pus, or drainage at your VAD site
- Irregular or rapid heart beat
- Pain in a new place.
- Pain that is not relieved by your pain medication.
- Headache that is not relieved by Tylenol®
- Inability to eat and continued weight loss
- Mouth sores
- Nasal congestion, drainage, cough
- One or more of the following symptoms in conjunction with repetitive diarrhea or vomiting (signs of dehydration):
- Dry, cracked lips
- Dry, sticky tongue
- Increased thirst
- Decreased urination
- Increased weakness
- Increased pulse rate
- Dizziness/lightheadedness (especially when rising to a standing position)