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.
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.
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”. 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 putting in an IV 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 chemotherapy treatment is completed.
The picture below shows a man getting chemotherapy through a port.
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.
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 possible side effects and whether you need to have someone drive you home after each visit.
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 have child care 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 care and elder care costs.
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