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What To Expect During Chemo For Breast Cancer

Where You Have Chemotherapy

What to Expect from Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

You usually have treatment into your bloodstream at the cancer day clinic. You might sit in a chair for a few hours so its a good idea to take things in to do. For example, newspapers, books or electronic devices can all help to pass the time. You can usually bring a friend or family member with you.

You have some types of chemotherapy over several days. You might be able to have some drugs through a small portable pump that you take home.

For some types of chemotherapy you have to stay in a hospital ward. This could be overnight or for a couple of days.

Clare Disney : Hello, my name is Clare and this is a cancer day unit.

So when you arrive and youve reported into with the receptionist, one of the nurses will call you through when your treatment is ready, sit you down and go through all the treatment with you.

Morning, Iris. My name is Clare. I am the nurse who is going to be looking after you today. Were going to start by putting a cannula in the back of your hand and giving you some anti sickness medication. And then I am going to come back to you and talk through the chemotherapy with you and the possible side effects you may experience throughout your treatment. Is that okay?

Each chemotherapy is made up for each individual patient, depending on the type of cancer they have and where it is and depending their height, weight and blood results.

How Will I Feel During Chemotherapy

Thereâs no way to know for sure. It depends on your overall health, the type of cancer you have, how far along it is, and the amount and type of chemotherapy drugs. Your genes may also play a part.

Itâs common to feel ill or very tired after chemotherapy. You can prepare for this by getting someone to drive you back and forth from treatment. You should also plan to rest on the day of and the day after treatment. During this time, it may help to get some help with meals and child care, if necessary. Your doctor may be able to help you manage some of the more severe side effects of chemotherapy.

How Is The Dose Given

There are various ways of taking chemotherapy. These include:

  • oral, as tablets, liquid, or capsules
  • intravenous , as an injection or infusion into a vein and directly into the bloodstream
  • topical, onto the skin
  • through an injection, as a shot in a muscle or right under the skin
  • intrathecal, injected into a fluid-filled space between the tissues covering the brain and the spinal cord, for cancers that reached the cerebrospinal fluid
  • intraperitoneal, directly into the peritoneum, or the covering of the surface of the abdomen surrounding internal organs, such as the stomach and the intestines
  • intra-arterial, injected to an artery that goes directly to the cancer

Most people will receive chemotherapy in a clinic or a hospital, but sometimes, they can take it at home. A person who receives chemotherapy drugs at home should take the dose exactly as prescribed. If they forget to take a dose at the right time, they should contact their doctor immediately.

They will still need to make regular visits to the hospital for doctors to check their health and response to treatment.

A person receiving drugs through an IV receives it through a needle or other instruments, such as:

Chemotherapy can produce adverse effects that range from mild to severe, depending on the type and extent of the treatment. Some people may experience few to no adverse effects.

A wide range of adverse effects can occur, :

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How You Have Chemotherapy

You usually have treatment into your bloodstream .

You might have treatment through a long plastic tube that goes into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

  • central line
  • PICC line
  • portacath

If you don’t have a central line you might have treatment through a thin short tube . The cannula goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

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When you finish chemotherapy, you may have remaining side effects of treatment. These symptoms may take months or weeks to go away. You may still experience:

  • Hair changes, such as hair growing back a different color or texture.
  • Nausea or vomiting for two to three weeks.
  • Tiredness or fatigue for three to six months.
  • Stress or chemo brain for six months to a year.

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Are There Any Lasting Side Effects Of Chemotherapy

Sometimes people do experience problems that may not go away. For example, some of the drugs used for breast cancer may weaken the heart. Your doctor may check your heart before, during, and after treatment. A rare side effect of chemotherapy is that occasionally, years after treatment, a few women have developed leukemia .Some chemotherapy drugs can damage the ovaries. If you have not gone through menopause yet, you may have hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Your menstrual periods may no longer be regular or they may stop. You may become infertile .

What Happens During Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

Most people receive chemotherapy for breast cancer through one of their veins . You may receive chemotherapy as one short injection or as an infusion. Infusions last longer and usually take place in a hospital or specialized infusion center.

When you get to the infusion center, your nurse administers your chemotherapy drugs and any additional medications you need. For example, you may also receive an anti-nausea medication before the chemotherapy drugs.

During the infusion:

  • Your nurse accesses your CVC or starts an IV.
  • You may read, watch television or visit with others during your treatment. Chemotherapy infusions may last a few hours or more.
  • Your nurse flushes the IV line or CVC with a saline solution and removes it.
  • You wait in a recovery area for about 30 minutes to make sure you do not have a negative reaction to treatment.
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    What Is The Goal Of Neoadjuvant Therapy For Breast Cancer

    The goal of administering neoadjuvant chemotherapy is to shrink the tumor or stop the spread of cancer, making surgery less invasive and more effective. This process, called downstaging, reduces the size of your breast tumor, making surgical resection possible or making you a candidate for breast-conserving surgery rather than mastectomy.

    There are several other advantages of neoadjuvant chemotherapy, including:

    • Allows your doctor to immediately assess your tumor’s response to medication
    • Allows for evaluation of new and novel agents
    • Allows for evaluation of change in biomarkers with treatment
    • May allow for earlier control of micrometastases

    Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Chemotherapy


    Patients are sometimes reluctant to ask questions, but I tell my patients that any question is an important question when it comes to their cancer care. Oncologists deal with cancer every day, but it’s all new to the patient. Getting your questions answered will help you make informed decisions about your care.

    Think about your questions before your appointment. Write them down and bring them with you. I also recommend bringing a family member or friend to take notes during the appointment because its easy to get overwhelmed by information.

    Here are some questions to consider asking your doctor about chemotherapy:

    • What drug or drugs are you recommending?
    • Whats the goal of this treatment?
    • How long will I be on it?
    • How do I receive it?
    • How often do I have to come in? Can someone come in with me?
    • If Im taking this drug at home, where do I store it? How often do I take it? What if I forget to take it?
    • What are the potential side effects? Are you going to give me anything ahead of time to deal with them?
    • Am I likely to have long-term side effects from this drug?
    • Who do I call if Im at home and I have a question?
    • What kind of support is there to help me through this treatment?
    • Is there any support for my caregivers?

    If you think of more questions after your appointment, call back and ask them.

    If you start chemotherapy and your experience is different from what you expected, talk to your care team. They may be able to make changes that help you.

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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.

    Reducing Your Risk Of Infection And Bleeding

    You can help reduce the risk of infection and bleeding by:

    • Regularly washing and drying your hands thoroughly
    • Cleaning any cuts and grazes and cover with a dressing or plaster
    • Avoiding people who are unwell or may be infectious
    • Eating as healthily as possible, and following any advice about food and drink given to you by your hospital
    • Drinking plenty of fluids
    • Storing and cooking food correctly

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    How Long Does Chemotherapy Last

    That depends on:

    • The type of cancer you have
    • How far along it is
    • The goal of treatment: cure, control growth, or ease pain
    • The type of chemotherapy
    • The way your body responds to the treatment

    You may have chemotherapy in âcycles,â which means a period of treatment and then a period of rest. For example, a 4-week cycle may be 1 week of treatment and then 3 weeks of rest. The rest allows your body to make new healthy cells. Once a cycle has been planned out, itâs better not to skip a treatment, but your doctor may suggest it if side effects are serious. Then your medical team will likely plan a new cycle to help you get back on track.

    How Should I Plan For Chemotherapy Treatments

    What to Expect from Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer

    There are steps you can take before treatment begins to help you cope.

    Prepare for side effects. Your team will work with you to plan for side effects common to your specific treatment. These may include nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and other side effects. This can include recommendations about eating well and getting regular exercise.

    Relieving physical and emotional side effects is an important part of your overall cancer treatment. This type of care is called palliative care or supportive care. Talk with your health care team about the side effects you experience and ways to manage and treat them. Learn more about the side effects of chemotherapy.

    Make a caregiving plan. People receiving chemotherapy may need extra help during treatment with transportation, household chores, and other tasks. Family and friends can provide valuable support during this time, called caregiving. Ask your team what type of caregiving at home you may need during and after treatment.

    Get help with finances. Cancer treatment can be costly. Before chemotherapy starts, talk with your team about the financial considerations of your treatment, including specific insurance coverage. You may want to contact organizations that can provide financial support. This could be important if your health insurance does not cover the whole cost of treatment.

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    Increased Risk Of Leukemia

    Very rarely, certain chemo drugs, such as doxorubicin , can cause diseases of the bone marrow, such as myelodysplastic syndromes or even acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of white blood cells. If this happens, it is usually within 10 years after treatment. For most women, the benefits of chemo in helping prevent breast cancer from coming back or in extending life are far likely to exceed the risk of this rare but serious complication.

    Feeling Unwell Or Tired

    Many women do not feel as healthy after chemo as they did before. There is often a residual feeling of body pain or achiness and a mild loss of physical functioning. These changes may be very subtle and happen slowly over time.

    Fatigue is another common problem for women who have received chemo. This may last a few months up to several years. It can often be helped, so its important to let your doctor or nurse know about it. Exercise, naps, and conserving energy may be recommended. If you have sleep problems, they can be treated. Sometimes fatigue can be a sign of depression, which may be helped by counseling and/or medicines.

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    Effects On Your Digestive System

    Chemotherapy can affect your digestive system in different ways. Some people get constipated, other people have diarrhoea. Your hospital will have its own guidelines, but if you have four or more episodes of diarrhoea within 24 hours contact you GP or treatment team. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

    Some chemotherapy drugs can make indigestion more likely. Some may also cause heartburn, which is a burning feeling in the lower chest.

    Let your chemotherapy team know if you have any of these side effects. They can prescribe medication to help and can give you information about diet. You can also be referred to a dietitian if necessary.

    Breast Cancer: Types Of Treatment

    12) CHEMOTHERAPY – What To Expect | Breast Cancer

    Have questions about breast cancer? Ask here.

    ON THIS PAGE: You will learn about the different types of treatments doctors use for people with breast cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

    This section explains the types of treatments that are the standard of care for early-stage and locally advanced breast cancer. Standard of care means the best treatments known. When making treatment plan decisions, you are strongly encouraged to consider clinical trials as an option. A clinical trial is a research study that tests a new approach to treatment. Doctors want to learn whether the new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the standard treatment. Clinical trials can test a new drug and how often it should be given, a new combination of standard treatments, or new doses of standard drugs or other treatments. Some clinical trials also test giving less treatment than what is usually done as the standard of care. Clinical trials are an option to consider for treatment and care for all stages of cancer. Your doctor can help you consider all your treatment options. Learn more about clinical trials in the About Clinical Trials and Latest Research sections of this guide.

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    What Happens After Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

    Immediately after chemotherapy, you may feel sleepy or nauseated. Typically, the side effects of chemotherapy go away after you complete all prescribed cycles.

    After all of your cycles of chemotherapy are completed, your healthcare provider may order imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRIs, to show whether the cancer is gone or the tumor has shrunk.

    Handling Trash Or Laundry

    Use Nitrile® gloves to handle laundry soiled with chemotherapy to keep it from coming in contact with your skin. Wash your hands before and after removing the gloves.

    If possible, wash contaminated laundry right away. If you cannot wash it right away, place it in a leak-proof double plastic bag and wash as soon as possible. Run them through the washer twice using laundry soap and color safe bleach.

    Place gloves and gowns and soiled items into a leak-proof double plastic bag.

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    Pain Or Nerve Changes

    Some of the drugs used for chemotherapy may cause changes in your nervous system. These changes can be temporary or permanent. Other changes in the body can cause pain as well. It is important to talk with your doctor or nurse about any pain or nerve changes you may be having. Your cancer treatment center may have a pain or palliative care clinic or team that you can work with to manage your pain.

    Chemotherapy For Breast Cancer

    What to Expect During Chemotherapy Treatment

    Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs that may be given intravenously or by mouth. The drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach cancer cells in most parts of the body. Sometimes, if cancer spreads to the spinal fluid, which surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord, chemo may be given directly into in this area .

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