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Going Through Chemotherapy

 

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Breast Cancer 101 (Interactive Multimedia) - Chemotherapy
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  Chemotherapy
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Schedule for chemotherapy

Your schedule for chemotherapy 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 usually lasts three to six months.

How chemotherapy drugs are given

Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form or injected intravenously (into a vein with an IV). Often, a combination of two or three chemotherapy drugs is used.  

Most modern chemotherapy regimens for breast cancer involve IV drugs, given in an outpatient setting at a hospital or clinic. At each visit, an IV is inserted into the arm, allowing the drugs to drip into the bloodstream.  

Some people have a surgical procedure to insert a small device called a port-a-cath under the skin of the chest. Chemotherapy drugs can be given through the port-a-cath, which remains in place for the three to six months of treatment. A port-a-cath is helpful if it is difficult to put in an IV at each visit. The picture below shows a person getting chemotherapy through a port-a-cath. 

 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 from one to six hours, including time with your medical and nursing teams.

At each visit, your blood counts will be checked and you may be given anti-nausea medications and other treatments to make the chemotherapy easier to tolerate. You can bring a friend or family member with you during the visit. You may also choose to read, listen to music or watch television.

Before you begin chemotherapy, talk to your health care provider about possible side effects and whether you need to have someone drive you home after each visit.

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For more information on chemotherapy, visit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) or the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Transportation and lodging assistance

If you do not live near the treatment center, it can be hard to get to and from chemotherapy sessions. Sometimes, there are programs that offer help with local or long-distance transportation and lodging. Learn more about these programs.

Updated 03/28/14

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