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How To Prepare For Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

Personal Preparation Before And After The Treatment

Having chemotherapy for breast cancer – patient guide
  • Prepare your mental status and reassure yourself that chemotherapy will give you a chance to improve your health and minimize the effects of the existing breast cancer. Adding information about chemotherapy benefits and side effects will be beneficial for you.
  • Get a lot of rest and avoid staying up too late.
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol and caffeinated drinks before the treatment. These, especially smoking give you a higher risk of developing new cancer and triggering treated cancer to reoccur. Smoking also dry the lining of your mouth out, making you more prone to the side effects of the therapy, such as the mouth sore.
  • Eat well-balanced diet high in protein and calories, which are essential in healing your body. A person undergoing chemotherapy generally needs twice amount of calories compared to those who are not.
  • Take anti-sickness medications wisely. Your doctor will probably prescribe an anti-sickness medication to be taken after the procedure. This is great for reducing the caused pain, but if consume for too long can damage the veins around the wrists.
  • Be prepared for the side effects. similar to chemotherapy for other cancers, chemotherapy for breast cancer may trigger some side effects the patient needs to anticipate, such as:
  • Nausea and vomiting

Cancer Treatment And Fatigue

Fatigue or feeling physically exhausted is a very common side effect of cancer treatment. You may have no energy to do things that are important to you. Fatigue can also affect you mentally and emotionally.

The causes of fatigue can include physical problems such as pain, stress, anemia or the side effects of treatment. Sometimes the cause is emotional such as depression. Other times, the cause might not be clear. Yet, fatigue can usually be successfully medically managed.

Tell your health care provider if you are fatigued. Describe your level of fatigue by using terms like mild, moderate or severe. Your health care team will try to find out what is causing the fatigue so they can provide the best treatment to help relieve it.

How Chemotherapy Is Given

Chemotherapy drugs can be given in a variety of ways, including pills you take at home. Most often they’re injected into a vein . This can be done through:

  • An IV needle and tube in your hand or wrist.
  • A catheter port implanted in your chest before beginning chemotherapy. This port stays in place for the duration of your chemotherapy treatment and eliminates the need to find a suitable vein at each treatment session.

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After A Chemotherapy Session

Following a chemotherapy session, you may:

  • Have your catheter removed.
  • Have your vital signs checked.
  • Review side effects with your health care provider.
  • Receive prescriptions for medications you can take at home to help with side effects.
  • Be advised to drink a lot of fluids.
  • Receive instructions on proper handling of bodily fluids, such as urine, stool, vomit, semen and vaginal secretions, as these may contain some of the chemotherapy drugs for the next 48 hours. This may simply involve flushing the toilet twice after use.

Some people feel fine after a chemotherapy session and can return to their schedules, but others may feel side effects more quickly. You may want to arrange for someone to drive you home afterward, at least for the first few sessions, until you see how you feel.

For Metastatic Breast Cancer

Cytoxan Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer Treatment

Chemo can be used as the main treatment for women whose cancer has spread outside the breast and underarm area to distant organs like the liver or lungs. Chemo can be given either when breast cancer is diagnosed or after initial treatments. The length of treatment depends on how well the chemo is working and how well you tolerate it.

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Preparing Your Body For Chemotherapy

Many people are apprehensive before their first chemotherapy appointment. Preconceived notions and misinformation can add to the stress. I think it is important to emphasize that the effects of treatments vary enormously depending upon the specific drug, affirmed , Professor and Chair of the Department of Hematology/Oncology.

With the right information and a few tips, you can decide what preparations will help you minimize stress and reduce disruptions to your daily life during chemotherapy.

Whats An Oncotype Dx Test

To decide whether or not you need chemotherapy, youll likely take an Oncotype DX test, which evaluates your risk factors and arrives at a recurrence number , which then falls somewhere on an Oncotype sliding scale. Heres how to interpret the numbers if you are a younger woman with breast cancer:

  • Recurrence Score of 0-15: The cancer has a low risk of recurrence. The benefits of chemotherapy likely will not outweigh the risks of side effects.

  • Recurrence Score of 16-20: The cancer has a low to medium risk of recurrence. The benefits of chemotherapy likely will not outweigh the risks of side effects.

  • Recurrence Score of 21-25: The cancer has a medium risk of recurrence. The benefits of chemotherapy are likely to be greater than the risks of side effects.

  • Recurrence Score of 26-100: The cancer has a high risk of recurrence. The benefits of chemotherapy are likely to be greater than the risks of side effects.

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Survival Happens Every Day

These rough estimates for how long breast cancer takes to treat can be helpful to plan your life around treatment. More importantly, they provide a light at the end of the tunnel for you to focus on. However, for your daily sanity, it may be better to break down your treatment into smaller parts. Take it from one day to the next. Remember, every day you make it, youre already winning. These factors all affect how long breast cancer takes to treat.

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Getting Your Five A Day

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Consider buying a good quality juicer. Its natural to start looking at ways to improve your diet after diagnosis and juicing is a great way to stock up on loads of good vitamins that may help lessen the side effects of your treatment. The LEquip Omni Juicers are absolutely brilliant, though quite an investment.

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Prepare A Treatment Bag

Many cancer patients prepare a special tote bag or backpack to bring along to treatment sessions. Include items that will provide comfort and entertainment during treatment, such as:

  • Sweater and comfortable clothes.
  • Music player, headphones and favorite music.
  • Blanket and pillow.
  • Crossword puzzles or other activities.
  • Notepad or journal and pen.
  • Bootie socks.
  • Cookies, crackers or other snacks.
  • Stress ball.

Where Is Chemotherapy Given

Unless youre having chemotherapy as tablets, youll normally be given your treatment at hospital as an outpatient or day case. This means youll be able to go home on the same day.

You may be at the hospital for a short time only. However, because of tests, waiting times and how long it takes to prepare and give the chemotherapy drugs, some people are there for most of the day. You may be asked to have blood tests a few days before you have your chemotherapy.

You might find it helpful to take things to help pass the time as well as snacks and drinks. You may be able to take someone to go with you to keep you company. Talk to your chemotherapy nurse to find out if this is possible.

In some areas chemotherapy may be given in a mobile treatment centre or in your home.

With some types of chemotherapy you may be given your first treatment as an inpatient and may need to stay in hospital overnight.

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What To Expect On Your First Day Of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy. It’s not a word people want to hear and certainly not something they want to go through. But, for those of us with cancer, we often don’t have a choice. I remember how terrified I was of getting my first chemotherapy treatment. Would I be sick? Would I have a reaction to the medication? Would I be in a room by myself or with other chemo patients?I really didn’t know what to expect the first day. However, almost 4 years later, I feel like a pro.

Changes In Bowel Habit

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Chemotherapy drugs and the anti-nausea drugs used with them may cause diarrhoea or constipation. Constipation is an annoyance but can usually be easily managed with laxatives. Diarrhoea is sometimes an important warning sign that develops with particular chemotherapy drugs. If you get diarrhoea you should let your oncologist or nurse know. You will be given specific advice about how to manage it.

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Preparing For Your Chemotherapy Treatment

What to expect

  • You will receive education on your first visit to the oncology clinic from the oncology pharmacist/nurse. A folder containing useful information will be given to you at the new patient orientation session.
  • You may be asked to start pre-chemotherapy medications the day before your first chemotherapy treatment.
  • You will need to have blood drawn in the lab on the 4th floor the day prior to chemotherapy.
  • You will need to register at the chemotherapy clinic when you arrive for your treatment.
  • Please arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time.
  • The length of your visit for chemotherapy will vary depending on the treatment you will be receiving.

What you need to bring

  • Your health card
  • Anti-nausea medications that your medical oncologist has prescribed
  • Food/beverages
  • Books or other entertainment while you wait or are receiving chemotherapy

Questions for your medical oncologist

  • How will my chemotherapy help me?
  • What are the benefits and risks involved with the specific chemo medications I am receiving?
  • What are some of the side effects and how are they managed?
  • How would the treatment affect my daily activities or work schedules?
  • Are there any special instructions I should follow before, during, and after the chemotherapy treatments?
  • Do I need any vaccinations before my chemotherapy treatment?

Please contact your medical oncologist if you have any questions or concerns regarding treatment.

Learn more about chemotherapy from:

What Does It Look Like

The nurses then change out the bags of fluid on the IV machine in order to put the pre-meds and chemo into your body. I had several different pre-meds at each chemo treatment including an antacid and steroid. The actual bag of Adriamycin and Cytoxan is red in color and is the reason for the nickname: The Red Devil.

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Ensure Safe And Easy Venous Access

Your oncologist may suggest you have a central venous catheter inserted prior to your first chemotherapy infusion. Having a CVC makes it easier to put medicine, blood products, nutrients, or fluids directly into your bloodstream. The most common CVCs are peripherally inserted central catheters and ports. A PICC line is inserted into a large vein. Ports are inserted under the skin in your chest or upper arm by a surgeon or radiologist. Both can stay in for the duration of your chemotherapy. Ask your oncologist about the risks and benefits of each and which, if any, CVC is best for you.

How Do You Get Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

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You get chemotherapy as a pill or in a vein daily, weekly, or every 2-4 weeks. You may get one drug or a combination of them. Your treatment plan is designed for your particular situation.

If your veins are hard to find, you may get a catheter in a large vein. These devices are inserted by a surgeon or radiologist and have an opening to the skin or a port under the skin, allowing chemotherapy medications to be given. They can also be used to give fluids or take blood samples. Once chemotherapy is finished, your catheter will be removed.

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Menstrual Changes And Fertility Issues

For younger women, changes in menstrual periods are a common side effect of chemo. Premature menopause and infertility may occur and could be permanent. If this happens, there is an increased risk of heart disease, bone loss, and osteoporosis. There are medicines that can treat or help prevent bone loss.

Even if your periods stop while you are on chemo, you may still be able to get pregnant. Getting pregnant while on chemo could lead to birth defects and interfere with treatment. If you have not gone through menopause before treatment and are sexually active, its important to discuss using birth control with your doctor. It is not a good idea for women with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer to take hormonal birth control , so its important to talk with both your oncologist and your gynecologist about what options would be best for you. When women have finished treatment , they can safely go on to have children, but it’s not safe to get pregnant while being treated.

If you think you might want to have children after being treated for breast cancer, talk with your doctor soon after being diagnosed and before you start treatment. For some women, adding medicines, like monthly injections with a luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analog, along with chemo, can help them have a successful pregnancy after cancer treatment. To learn more, see Female Fertility and Cancer.

Plan How You Will Get There

Because you don’t know how your body will react to the different medications, it is a good idea to have someone drive you to and from treatment, at least the first time. You may find that you tolerate it well and can come alone for future visits if you prefer. It is best to familiarize yourself with directions to the cancer center, where to park and where to sign in upon arrival.

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How Long Will I Have Chemotherapy For

Chemotherapy is commonly given as a series of treatments with a break between each treatment to give your body time to recover from any short-term side effects. The treatment and period of time before the next one starts is called a cycle.

You may have treatment weekly or every two or three weeks.

You may have one drug or a combination of two or three drugs. The exact type and dose of chemotherapy will be tailored to your individual situation. The drugs used, the dose, how often theyre given and the number of cycles may be called your chemotherapy regime or regimen.

The length of time that you have chemotherapy will depend on your individual situation. Your treatment team will discuss this with you.

The Bottom Line: Timely Treatment Is Better Than Delay

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I realize that these two studies are about as close to Well, duh! studies as there are. Of course, delaying surgery for breast cancer is not a good thing. Of course, delaying chemotherapy when its indicated is also not a good thing. These are results that are not unexpected. However, these studies are still very important because they give us estimates of how much of a delay is safe and at what point delaying care starts to have a measurable impact on patient outcomes. Putting the results of these studies together suggests that its best to do surgery within about 60 days in patients not needing chemotherapy first, and that for patients with disease lacking the estrogen and progesterone receptor its best to start chemotherapy within 90 days of surgery.

We can thus reassure anxious patients who want their surgery tomorrow while at the same time tell patients balking at surgery or chemotherapy how long they can safely wait before the delay starts adversely affecting their chances of survival. Unfortunately, in my practice, due to the socioeconomic status of a lot of patients, by the time some of my patient see me its already been more than 30 days since their biopsy and diagnosis.

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Plan On Having A Support Buddy

Some people plan on driving themselves to chemo if their first infusion goes well. Yet there are many reasons why it’s beneficial to have a chemo buddy who can drive you, take notes and help ask questions, and keep you company through your infusion.

There is a lot of information to digest at each visit, and having a friend with you doubles your chance that you won’t miss anything. Sometimes a chemo buddy is better able to detect if you have a reaction to the chemo drugs and can point this out to you early on.

The emotional support of having a friend can’t be understated. Even if you and your friend each read a book, watch a movie, and don’t talk, the presence of another person can lift your spirits. In our fast-paced world, we seldom have time to simply sit and talk with a friend for a few hours. Chemotherapy offers this opportunity.

Trends In Research And Therapy

The therapeutic options for breast cancer patients have increased dramatically in the 21st century with increasing efforts towards the development of more efficient and effective screening, diagnosis and treatment options. The landscape of therapy for patients with metastatic breast cancer is also changing. For instance, many ongoing studies are exploring strategies to overcome endocrine resistance, target TNBC and develop new anti-HER2 therapies. There are promising advances in immunotherapy and new directions in inhibiting aberrant angiogenesis, one of the hallmarks of tumors . Our understanding of the molecular characteristics of tumors in general, coupled with better screening methods has helped shape the recent advances in breast cancer treatment. Neoadjuvant therapy, for example, has become a standard recourse. There are strategies not only for HER2- and ER-positive cancers, but also new options in the management and treatment of TNBC patients .

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