Chemotherapy - FAQs

Tasmanian Health Service - Northern Region

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How often will I have to come for chemotherapy treatment?

Chemotherapy regimes vary depending on the drugs being given and whether they are being given in addition to another form of cancer treatment. Treatment regimes may incorporate one day or consecutive days per month, week, fortnight or every three weeks, with each "cycle" repeating for a set number of courses (as deemed by the treating physician).

How long does each treatment take?

Depending on the drug/s being given, your visit to the clinic may vary from a few minutes to several hours. You will be advised of the time-frame for your chemotherapy when you are booked in.

Do I take my usual medications?

Your specialist cancer doctor will have documented current medication at the initial examination. If there has been any modification of dose or drugs please let staff know prior to treatment. Occasionally you may be asked not to take a specific drug on the day of treatment due to possible interactions with the medication being given on the day. Please ask staff if you have any queries.

Can I eat before treatment?

Eat and drink as you normally would on the day of treatment. Some people find it helpful to minimise excessively hot/spicy foods and alcohol prior to and initially after treatment to reduce heartburn/ gut irritation. Please ask your treatment physician if you wish to consume alcohol whilst on treatment.

How is it given?

Although some chemotherapy is available in tablet form, the majority of chemotherapy is via a peripheral cannula (needle in the vein). Difficult veins may necessitate special devices being inserted for the duration of the treatment to ensure safe delivery of the drugs.

Will I be sick after treatment?

Major improvements in anti-sickness medication have drastically reduced the number of people experiencing nausea +/- sickness. Not all chemotherapy drugs cause nausea, and for the majority of patients taking anti-sickness medication as prescribed, combined with adequate fluid intake in the days surrounding treatment minimises this adverse reaction.

Will I lose my hair?

Not all chemotherapy drugs are responsible for hair loss. You will be advised of the likelihood of hair loss when you initially discuss your treatment with your doctor / specialist nurse. Options for managing this temporary side-effect will be provided as well as support services available.

Can I still work?

Depending on the nature of your work and the individual situation it is still possible for a number of people to continue working whilst receiving chemotherapy. It is helpful to be aware that fatigue is a common side-effect of the treatment and that reduced hours/ flexible work arrangements are more realistic to allow optimal outcomes both from a treatment and a workplace viewpoint. Social work / Centrelink Services are available to assist the individual explore what financial options are available during treatment and beyond.

Can I drive after treatment?

Depending on the chemotherapy drugs being given, occasionally extra drugs are administered prior to the treatment to reduce the chances of reaction to the drug/s. Some of these "pre-medication" drugs may cause drowsiness, so it is advisable for the first treatment to have a designated driver and establish whether it is possible to drive yourself for subsequent treatments.