When you’re diagnosed with cancer, there are a number of treatments available. Among the most common treatments is chemotherapy, used for a variety of cancers at many different stages of the disease. Preparing for chemotherapy is vital to getting through these treatments successfully.
At Hunterdon Oncology and Hematology, our team specializes in a variety of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy. Leading our team are five expertly trained oncologists and hematologists, who help you understand your cancer and get you the advanced treatment you need to fight it.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses very strong chemicals to kill cancer cells growing in your body. Many of the drugs used in chemotherapy are considered cytotoxic, which means they target and kill rapidly growing cancer cells.
There are many different drugs used in chemotherapy, some that have been around for a long time, and some that are newer. Chemotherapy can be used as the only form of treatment for your cancer, or it may be combined with other therapies like radiation to give you a better prognosis.
Chemotherapy works systemically — meaning it travels throughout your body, killing any cancer cells that have spread from the primary tumor. This is how chemotherapy differs from other treatments, such as radiation and immunotherapy.
Chemotherapy is delivered in several different ways, including through an IV infusion or in pill form. There are also chemotherapy creams that are applied topically, injections, and wafers that are placed in your body at the tumor site through surgery.
The way you receive chemotherapy is highly dependent on your specific type of cancer.
How to prepare for chemotherapy
Preparing for chemotherapy is half the battle. This form of treatment is daunting, and often leaves your body drained. However, by preparing ahead of time, you’ll be ready for the side effects when they hit, and your experience may be a little better than if you weren’t in the know.
Our team assists you on prep steps to take before you start chemotherapy. Some of the ways you can prepare include:
Chemotherapy sessions can be very long — several hours in some cases. Bring a laptop to watch a movie, or cards to play with your companion. This helps to pass the time and takes your focus off of the actual treatment.
See your dentist
Making sure your dental health is in check helps prevent complications from chemotherapy. You should see your dentist within six months of starting chemotherapy to ensure there are no infections in your mouth to worry about.
Pack a bag
Bring a bag along with things such as a blanket, water, and a small snack to help you through long chemo sessions. Bring anything that brings you comfort while you’re receiving the treatment.
Prepare some meals
You may not feel well after your chemotherapy session, so it’s important to meal prep ahead of time. This way, if you’re not feeling well enough to cook, you still have something to eat when you get home.
Pick up any medications
Get your home medications at your pharmacy before you begin your chemo. This ensures that you have all the medications you need available, since you’ll likely be wiped out from your session.
It’s also important that you bring someone along with you if you can. This person not only provides companionship, but also helps with any questions you may have or note taking you need during your chemotherapy session.
Why preparation is important
Your chemotherapy session may be anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on your specific treatment plan. This takes a lot of time out of your day, and you might be tired afterwards.
Getting things in order before your chemotherapy session is important for a number of reasons. Because of the strength of the medications, you may experience a number of side effects that can affect you for a few days, which include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Mouth sores
These side effects don’t last forever, but can continue for the duration of your chemotherapy treatments. Getting prepared for this ahead of time helps you cut down on side effects, and gets your home ready if they do hit, so you’re comfortable.
Side effects aren’t the only reason why preparation is important. If you’re receiving chemotherapy, it’s likely a huge aspect of your treatment plan. Knowing what to expect and understanding the medications gets you mentally prepared to go through the rounds of treatment that you’ll need.
If you’re in need of chemotherapy, our team can help. Don’t hesitate to call our office in Flemington, New Jersey at 908-788-6461, or schedule an appointment online with one of our expert doctors today.