What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is treatment with drugs (cytotoxic) which destroy cancer cells. These drugs are given by injection, drip or tablets. Sometimes this involves a hospital stay but most chemotherapy is given to you as an outpatient, either in clinic or treatment suite. How often you have treatment will depend on the drugs that are recommended by your specialist doctor.

Side effects

Sometimes chemotherapy can cause side effects and increase the risk of you developing a serious infection. Other side effects that may occur are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, tiredness, sore mouth, skin rashes and hair loss. The side effects experienced will very much depend on the drug that you receive; the medical and nursing team will fully inform you of what you may expect during treatment.
There are effective medicines and treatments to help minimise side effects and any symptoms would be closely monitored by the team of doctors and nurses who will offer advice and support.

Prior to your treatment

Prior to starting chemotherapy treatment your oncologist/haematologist will give you both written and verbal information about the drugs you will receive and you will have an opportunity to ask questions.
You will also have a pre-chemotherapy assessment appointment with a chemotherapy nurse. The nurse will tell you more about chemotherapy and your particular treatment.
You will be told how your particular treatment will be given to you (tablet, injection or drip) and any possible side effects to expect. If hair loss is associated with the chemotherapy recommended for you then the nurse can discuss the options you have available. This could include referral to the hair loss advisor to discuss your preferences for a wig if you wish.
Patients receiving chemotherapy are encouraged to ring our 24 hour advice line for telephone assessment if they experience certain selected side effects, this will be explained fully and contact information given during each pre-chemotherapy assessment.