What is chemotherapy?
At Summit Healthcare, we offer chemotherapy for patients at our cancer center. Chemotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that destroys cancerous cells. It is typically the primary choice in cancer treatment but can be used in combination with other treatment such as surgery or radiation. Most commonly, a medical oncologist, who specializes in treating cancer with medication, will administer the chemotherapy to patients.
Chemotherapy aims to target and remove malignant cells that contain cancer. At times, chemotherapy can affect healthy cells as well. This causes patients to experience side effects and have healthy cells in their hair follicles, gastrointestinal tract, and bone marrow to be negatively affected.
Summit Healthcare Chemotherapy Department
Here, at Summit Healthcare Cancer Center, we pride ourselves on our welcoming chemotherapy department and knowledgeable oncology nurses. Our mission is to provide pharmaceutical treatment to our clients in an outpatient setting, consistent with the hospital-wide quality of care practice standards. The chemotherapy department supports the transfer from inpatient acute care services to outpatient care, working with discharge planners and physicians to allow a smooth transition for the patient. We also work with physician offices and other hospitals to provide outpatient services for their patients.
Our department sees approximately 4,800 patients per year. Patients have stated how much they love the “family environment” in our chemotherapy department. They enjoy coming in for their treatments because they are treated like family. We care for our patients at our “new and improved” unit. Patients have access to a chair that fully reclines, music, books, an aquarium, surround sound, and friendly distractions to help them get through their day.
Our Qualified Oncology Nurses
Our oncology-certified nurses have met or exceeded requirements for practice in cancer care, have completed education in oncology nursing, and have a tested knowledge of the specialty. Certification in oncology nursing is based on current professional practice, so it validates a nurse’s knowledge is up-to-date. As cancer treatments become more complex, patients will require increasingly specialized care. Oncology certified nurses have both the knowledge and experience to deliver that care effectively.
In order to be eligible to test for an OCN, an RN must have a minimum of 1,000 hours of oncology nursing practice and have completed 10 contact hours of accredited continuing education in oncology nursing. If accepted, the RN must then pass a rigorous exam in order to become Oncology Nursing Certified.
What types of cancer can chemotherapy treat?
Chemotherapy is a customized aspect of cancer treatment that may be recommended for a wide range of situations. Examples include:
- Breast cancer
- Certain types of bone cancer
- Brain cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Hodgkin lymphoma
- Recurrent or advanced stage prostate cancer
- Throat cancer
Who is a good candidate for chemotherapy?
Every cancer diagnosis presents specific challenges and needs. Having cancer is not a predetermined qualification for chemotherapy. Doctors consider patient age, type, stage of cancer, and potential alternatives such as radiation. Additional considerations that must be made prior to starting a regimen of chemotherapy include patient compliance (oral chemotherapy) and ability to maintain reliable dosing and the method of administration that may be most effective.
Our team conducts a thorough consultation and testing process to fully understand each cancer diagnosis. Patients can expect to receive the full extent of information regarding proposed treatment options as well as ongoing support as their long-term health is safeguarded.
How is chemotherapy administered?
There are a variety of treatment options for chemotherapy. In the past, chemotherapy was dispensed intravenously but more recently oral medication options have become more common. Factors such as type, stage, and location of cancer dictate the type of chemotherapy a patient may receive. Our skilled staff at Summit Healthcare Cancer Center will discuss these options with you during your consultation.
- By injection into the muscle or fatty tissue
- Intravenously, through a vein into the bloodstream
- Intra-arterially, into the artery supplying blood to the cancer
- Intraperitoneally, into the peritoneal cavity of the abdomen
- Orally, as a pill, capsule, or liquid
- Topically, for some skin cancers
How often will I receive chemotherapy treatment?
Chemotherapy is dosed and administered based on a schedule that is customized to your needs. The duration and frequency of chemotherapy treatments are determined by factors including:
- Type and stage of cancer
- Purpose of treatment: to ease symptoms, control cancer growth, or eliminate cancer
- Type of chemotherapy prescribed
- The unique physiological response to chemotherapy
Treatment may be scheduled in cycles, or a period of active treatment followed by a period of rest before a new cycle of chemotherapy begins. For example, a cycle may involve daily treatments for one week followed by a three-week break to allow the body to build new cells.
It is important to maintain the schedule of treatments prescribed by your doctor. In some instances, the schedule may be modified to address certain side effects. Should this become necessary, the healthcare team discusses the reasons for the change in schedule, what to do during the break in treatment, and when treatment should resume.
How successful is chemotherapy in treating cancer?
The objective of chemotherapy is to extend a patient’s life expectancy and also maintain an optimal quality of life during and after treatment. Chemotherapy may be selected as a sole method of care or as an aspect of a wider treatment plan that also includes surgery and/or radiation or other therapies. The protocol developed for each person seeks to either eliminate cancer or slow the growth of cancer cells while preserving the highest level of physical and emotional well-being possible.
The success of chemotherapy is measured by the overall improvement a person experiences from their treatment. Most statistics speak in terms of five-year cancer survival rates or the absence of cancer after a certain number of years. What research can’t fully explain is how any particular treatment performs on a broader scale. Understandably, statistics can be frustrating. It is nearly impossible to compare two cancer cases side-by-side because factors vary so widely from one patient to another. The success of treatment relates to numerous factors, including the patient’s general health at the onset of chemotherapy, the type and stage, and aggressiveness of their cancer, and also how their unique physiology responds to treatment.
Is the chemotherapy treatment painful?
Pain is typically not encountered during an actual chemotherapy session. Patients receiving IV chemotherapy may experience a slight pinch when the IV is inserted. Medication may also cause a mild burning or cooling sensation as it enters the bloodstream. These feelings are generally mild and temporary.
Treatment may become uncomfortable if side effects develop from the drug being in the body. As a team, we strive to minimize the side effects of chemotherapy as much as possible.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy
There are both long and short-term side effects as well as external and internal side effects of receiving chemotherapy. Side effects of chemotherapy are common since treatment damages both healthy and malignant cells. Once healthy cells begin to recover, after treatment has stopped, many side effects become less severe or end. Our staff at Summit Healthcare Cancer Center will discuss how to cope with any side effects that can occur before you begin treatment. Short-term side effects include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry Mouth
- Hair Loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
Some side effects of chemotherapy do not appear until months or years after treatment has ended. These side effects are less common and vary based on the type of chemotherapy drug that was used.
- Heart problems
- Kidney problems
- Lung-tissue damage
- Nerve damage
- Risk of a second cancer