Preparing for Chemotherapy

Updated at: Jan 19, 2013
Preparing for Chemotherapy
Dr Poonam Sachdev
CancerWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Dec 16, 2011

Chemotherapy uses medications (drugs) to treat cancer. These drugs work by attacking cells that are dividing quickly. Therefore, they attack and kill the cancer cells. They, however, causes damage to the healthy cells of the body as well inferring that the treatment will have side effects. Preparing for chemotherapy is essential so that the patient can receive and deal with the changes in the body. The preparation needed for chemotherapy depends on factors such as:

  • Type and location of cancer.
  • Stage and grade of cancer.
  • Your age, general health and associated health problems.
  • Your personal preferences.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for your chemotherapy treatments. You may need:

Intravenous catheter insertion: If the medication has to be intravenous (into the vein), a thin flexible tube (catheter) or another device may be placed in a large vein in the body (usually in your chest) to deliver the drugs. The drug usually flows from an IV bag or bottle into the bloodstream during IV administration. A catheter or another device is inserted while treating cancer though administration of repeated courses of chemotherapy may be needed.

Blood tests for certain genes: Certain blood tests may be done to check for certain genes. Presence of certain genes can affect the metabolism of some chemotherapy treatments; people who undergo additional chemotherapy treatments have additional side effects. In case the gene is detected, your doctor may avoid certain drugs or change the dose of the drug.

Blood tests: Blood tests and other tests are done to make sure you're healthy enough for chemotherapy. These include tests to check liver function, kidney function, heart tests to check for heart health etc. If the tests show abnormality, your doctor may avoid certain drugs or change the dose of the drug.

Dental evaluation: Before starting chemotherapy, dental consultation may be recommended to check your teeth for signs of infection. Treating existing infections helps to reduce the risk of more infections and complications as chemotherapy affects white blood cells and reduces your body's ability to fight infections.

Plan for side effects: People, who are on chemotherapy, experience several side effects as these drugs affect the normal healthy cells of the body along with the cancer cells. Your doctor may explain the side effect you may experience, the medications and ways to manage them.

Getting help: Your doctor can tell you the possible effects of chemotherapy on your work and daily activities. If it is expected to affect you significantly, you may plan ahead by asking for time off work and request a family or friend to help at home with your children, pets or other chores. As every person is different and the effect of chemotherapy can be variable it is advisable to plan for some time off from work and help around the house for the first few days.  Based on how you feel after the start of chemotherapy, you may decide the rest of the therapy period.

These are some preparations that may be needed before you start chemotherapy. Your doctor can advise you better regarding the preparations that may be needed before starting chemotherapy.




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