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Going Through Chemotherapy

Schedule for chemotherapy

Your chemotherapy schedule depends on the drugs and combinations of drugs in your treatment plan.

Chemotherapy is often given in cycles, with days or weeks off between treatments. This cycling gives your body a chance to recover between treatments.

A full course of chemotherapy for early or locally advanced breast cancer is usually given over 3-6 months.

Ask for a list of your upcoming chemotherapy visits so you can plan ahead and add them to your calendar.

How chemotherapy drugs are given

Most chemotherapy drugs for breast cancer are given by vein (through an IV) in an outpatient setting at a hospital or clinic. Often, a combination of 2 or 3 chemotherapy drugs is used.

At each visit, an IV is inserted into your arm, allowing the drugs to drip into the bloodstream.

A few chemotherapy drugs are pills.

Port-a-cath (port, mediport)

Some people have a surgical procedure to insert a small device called a port-a-cath under the skin of the chest. This may be called a port or a mediport. One end of the port goes into a large vein near your heart and the other end is just under your skin.

Chemotherapy drugs can be given through the port. This avoids starting an IV in your arm at each visit. Instead, a needle is inserted through your skin to the port. Then, the needle is connected to an IV line with the chemotherapy.

The port remains in place until your chemotherapy treatment is completed. Talk with your health care provider about when the port can be removed.

The picture below shows a man getting chemotherapy through a port.

 Person getting chemotherapy through a port-a-cath

Source: National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)

What to expect at each chemotherapy visit

Each chemotherapy visit lasts 1-6 hours. This includes time with your medical and nursing teams.

At each visit, your blood counts will be checked.

You may be given anti-nausea medications and other treatments to reduce some side effects. You usually take these medications before your chemotherapy session begins.

A friend or family member may be able to stay with you during the visit. You may also choose to read, listen to music, watch TV or sleep.

Before you begin chemotherapy, talk with your health care provider about what possible side effects you may have and whether you need to have someone drive you home after each visit. Your provider may give you a handout or a binder with this information. You may find it helpful to take notes in a notebook or on your phone or tablet.

Learn more about things to consider before chemotherapy begins.

Learn about short-term side effects of chemotherapy.

Learn about long-term side effects of chemotherapy.

Transportation, lodging, child care and elder care assistance

If you do not live near the treatment center, it can be hard to get to and from chemotherapy sessions.

If you need a ride to and from treatment, or you have child or elder care needs that make getting to treatments difficult, there may be resources available.

Family and friends often want to help, but don’t know how. These may be ways for them to get involved. It’s OK to ask for help.

Sometimes, there are programs that help with local or long-distance transportation and lodging (if you need a place to stay overnight during treatment).

There are also programs that help with child and elder care costs.

Find other resources that offer social support and practical support.

Komen Financial Assistance Program

Susan G. Komen® created the Komen Financial Assistance Program to help those struggling with the costs of breast cancer treatment by providing financial assistance to eligible individuals.

Funding is available for eligible individuals undergoing breast cancer treatment at any stage or living with metastatic breast cancer (stage 4).

To learn more about this program and other helpful resources, call the Komen Breast Care Helpline at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email helpline@komen.org.

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Susan G. Komen® Support Resources

Updated 06/30/23