Your chemotherapy schedule depends on the drugs and combinations of drugs used 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 3-6 months.
Chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form or injected intravenously (into a vein with an IV). Often, a combination of 2-3 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 3-6 months of treatment. A port-a-cath is helpful if it is hard to put in an IV at each visit.
The picture below shows a person getting chemotherapy through a port-a-cath.
Source: National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)
Each chemotherapy visit lasts from 1-6 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. A friend or family member can 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 treatment begins.
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. There are also programs to help you with child care and elder care costs.
Learn more about transportation, lodging, child care and elder care assistance.
Komen Support Resources
Breast Cancer 101: Chemotherapy
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