Posted on February 01 2022
Chemotherapy — sometimes called standard chemotherapy, traditional chemotherapy, or cytotoxic chemotherapy — is the broad term used to describe the many drugs that are used to destroy cancer cells. It is helpful to understand what chemo is and how it works. It is important to know that the drugs used to treat cancer can be very different and each person's situation is different. If you are considering traditional or standard chemotherapy as a treatment option, it may be helpful to ask your cancer care team the following questions so you can get as much information as possible.
Cancer cells generally grow and divide or multiply more quickly than normal cells, chemo is designed to kill all fast-growing cells. This explains why some chemo drugs make you lose your hair or give you mouth sores. Chemo is prescribed in several situations. For people with early cancers, the goal of chemotherapy is cure. Although oncologists can’t ever promise someone that the cancer is truly gone, chemo frequently succeeds.
Consider asking your doctor or nurse these questions before signing the consent form. It may be helpful to write down your questions to take with you to your next doctor's visit.
- What chemotherapy drugs will I be given?
- How will the drugs be given to me?
- How often do I need to receive chemotherapy?
- How long will my treatments last?
- Can I take my other medicines, vitamins and/or supplements while receiving chemotherapy?
- Will I need to change my diet in any way? Can I drink alcoholic beverages?
- Will I need to change my routines and activities? Can I exercise? Sexual activity?
These are just a few examples to give you an idea of what kind of information may be relevant to you and can be asked to your doctor.
Tips to help you remember your doctor's answers:
- Take notes during your visits. Don't be embarrassed to ask your doctor to speak more slowly so you can write down. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
- If you can, tape-record your doctor visits so you have all the details, do so. But first check with your doctor to see if they will agree to tape-record conversations.
- Consider having a friend or family member accompany you to your doctor's appointments to take notes, help you better understand what your doctor says and to help you refresh your memory later.
Cancer Treatment Schedule
A treatment program (schedule) is included as part of a written treatment plan. A treatment schedule includes:
- The type of treatment that will be given, such as radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, etc.
- How the treatment will be given, for example, how the radiation will be administered or whether a treatment drug will be given by mouth, injection or infusion
- How often the treatment will be given, e.g., once a day, once a week, or once every 3 weeks
- Whether there are breaks between cycles, sessions, or types of treatment, and how long the breaks will be
- The expected duration for each type or course of treatment
The outcome of treatment may be affected if the spread is interrupted or if delays occur. However, while treatment guidelines must be strictly followed to obtain the best treatment results, your wishes and preferences are important. Questions about whether it is okay for you to take a break from treatment should be answered by your health care team, as its members know your situation best.
“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion for LIFE.”
- Federico Fellini, Italian filmmaker