Receiving Chemotherapy ~ Health Guide

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Receiving Chemotherapy

Written by Mystic on Monday, August 04, 2008

Some chemotherapy drugs can be given to you as an outpatient or in your doctors rooms. Other chemotherapy treatments will mean a short stay in hospital, perhaps overnight or for a few days to a week. This will depend on the drugs used and the way they are given.

Chemotherapy may be given by a number of different routes, depending on the type of cancer you have and the drugs used. The most usual ways are by mouth (oral) or injection into a vein (intravenous). Sometimes injections may be into a muscle (intramuscular) or under the skin (sub-cutaneous). Whichever way they are given, the drugs are absorbed into the blood and carried around the body to reach all cancer cells.

If you are taking your chemotherapy drugs by mouth, you may be given tablets to take home as all or part of your treatment. You will be told when to take them and other specific instructions such as whether or not to take them with food. If, for any reason, you cannot take your tablets as prescribed you should contact your doctor, pharmacist or the nursing staff for advice.

If you are receiving the drugs by intravenous injection, they may be diluted into a large volume of fluid and given over a number of hours or days. This is called a drip or infusion and a fine tube called a cannula will be inserted into a vein in your arm.

Sometimes other drugs such as antiemetics (drugs that control nausea) may be added to your chemotherapy drugs so that you receive them at the same time.

Sometimes your chemotherapy drugs can be put into a pump that gives a controlled amount of the drug into the blood stream over a specified period of time. These pumps are portable and you can carry out most of your normal activities at home with them.

Occasionally your veins may become hardened or sore from frequent injections or irritation by the drugs. Do tell your nurses or the doctors if the injection hurts in any way so that any possible damage can be prevented.

Another way to receive intravenous chemotherapy is via a fine plastic tube (called a central venous catheter) put into a vein in your chest. A infusoport is one type commonly used and it can remain in the vein for many months. Your chemotherapy can be given directly into the end of the catheter, which is secured firmly against your chest. Blood for testing can also be taken from it. This means you do not have to have frequent needles and prevents damage to your veins. It is vital that the exit is kept clean to prevent infection getting into your bloodstream and the nurses will teach you how to do this.

Other catheters have a special ending, called an portocath, which is enclosed under your skin. Injections are made into the portocath and because it is inside your body, the risk of infection is reduced.

Sometimes the drug(s) can be put directly into the area of the body that needs to be treated. For example, liver cancer may be treated by direct delivery of drugs into the hepatic artery which feeds the liver, allowing the use of higher doses while also reducing the side effects. Some early bladder cancers can be treated by introducing the drugs into the bladder via the urethra.

Other routes by which chemotherapy drugs can be introduced to the body for a localized effect include injection into the fluid around the spine (trathecal), into the chest cavity (trapleural) or into the abdominal cavity (traperitoneal).

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