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.
Some chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form.
Most modern 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 2-3 chemotherapy drugs is used.
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. This avoids putting in an IV at each visit.
The port-a-cath remains in place for the 3-6 months of treatment.
The picture below shows a person getting chemotherapy through a port-a-cath.
Source: National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)
Each chemotherapy visit lasts 1-6 hours, including time with your medical and nursing teams.
At each visit, your blood counts are 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 chemotherapy begins.
Learn about short-term side effects of chemotherapy.
Learn about long-term side effects of chemotherapy.
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 to help.
Family and friends often want to help, but don’t know how. These may be ways for them to help. Don’t hesitate 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.
SUSAN G. KOMEN® SUPPORT RESOURCES
Breast Cancer 101: Chemotherapy
1-877 GO KOMEN(1-877-465-6636)