Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is one of the major treatments your doctor uses to fight cancer. 

Chemotherapy is anti-cancer drugs that kill cells that quickly divide, especially cancer cells.  Because these drugs travel throughout the entire body, they can affect normal, healthy cells. Damage to healthy cells/tissue may cause side effects.

There are many drugs currently available that are used to treat cancer.  They are given alone or in combination with other drugs or treatments.
  • Biologic therapy (immunotherapy): A form of cancer treatment that uses the body's immune system to fight cancer. It is generally used together with other cancer treatments to improve treatment effectiveness or to decrease side effects. 
  • Hormone therapy: Some types of cancer can only grow and spread if natural chemicals in the body, called hormones, are present. Hormone therapy fights cancer by changing the amounts of hormones in the body. This is most commonly used to treat cancers of the breast, prostate and reproductive system. 
  • Monoclonal antibodies: Laboratory-made drugs that attach to proteins on the surface of cancer cells. When they attach, they stop the protein from doing its job, such as making cancer cells grow. 
  • Targeted therapies: Drugs that selectively kill only cancer cells, decreasing side effects. 
  • Anti-angiogenesis drugs: The formation of new blood vessels feeding tumors is called angiogenesis. Anti-angiogenesis drugs cut off a tumor's blood supply so the tumor starves and cannot grow.

Cancer research

Research trials give patients access to new anti-cancer therapies often long before they are available elsewhere.   You have opportunities to participate in clinical trials locally.  Your physician will work closely with the research staff to determine if there is a clinical trial available for your specific disease. 

Who gives my chemotherapy?

The Oncology Registered Nurses at LMC are Oncology Certified Nurses (OCN).  This requires specialized training in cancer treatment and the administration of chemotherapy through the Oncology Nursing Society. The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) is a professional association committed to promoting excellence in oncology nursing and the transformation of cancer care.

How Is Chemotherapy Given?

Chemotherapy may be given as an injection or infusion into the vein (IV), by injections into the muscle or under the skin, or pills taken by mouth.  

How Long Do Chemotherapy Treatments Last?

Your treatment may be as short as 30 minutes or as long as 8 hours. Most chemotherapy treatments last 1-3 hours.   Some chemotherapy is given slowly over a longer period of time so patients wear an ambulatory infusion pump home.

How Often Do Chemotherapy Treatments Occur?

Chemotherapy treatment is given in cycles, which usually consist of days on treatment followed by days off treatment (treatment cycle). Cycled chemotherapy treatment helps decrease the harm to healthy cells and allows the drugs to kill more cancer cells. 

Side Effects of Chemotherapy

The most common side effects of chemotherapy include nausea and vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, increased chance of infection, increased chance of anemia (low red blood cell counts), and an increased chance of bruising and bleeding. Every person does not get every side effect, and some people get few, if any.  Your doctor and nurses will talk with you about which side effects are most likely to happen with your chemotherapy, how long they may last, how serious they may be, and when you should call them for help.  Your doctor may prescribe medications to prevent or control some side effects.  

Questions

Current patients may contact our local oncology triage RN during office hours (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.) at 715-236-8235 or 1-800-442-4268. You can contact the oncology triage RN on call after hours at 1-800-782-8581. If you have an emergency, please dial 911.