Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with drugs that can destroy cancer cells. These drugs often are called “anti-cancer” drugs. Your doctor will recommend an appropriate chemotherapy plan based on your medical history, type of cancer, extent of cancer, current state of health, and updated research.
Many people hear about chemotherapy from friends and family or read about it in books or brochures. What you hear and read can give you a general idea about chemotherapy treatments; however, all of the information may not apply to you and your specific situation. Before deciding to begin chemotherapy, you should ask your doctor questions that will help you understand treatment and what to expect during treatments.
Some of the important questions to ask your doctor are:
• Why do I need chemotherapy?
• What are the risks of chemotherapy?
• What are the benefits of chemotherapy?
• What do you hope the chemotherapy will do for me?
• What are the specifics of chemotherapy treatments in my case?
• Are there any other possible treatment methods for my type of cancer?
• What type of chemotherapy drugs will I be given?
• How will the chemotherapy drugs be given to me?
• How long will I be receiving chemotherapy treatments?
• How long will each treatment last?
• Who will give me the treatments?
• How will I feel during chemotherapy?
• What are the short term side effects of chemotherapy?
• Are there any long term side effects of chemotherapy?
• How soon can I expect any side effects to occur and how long will they last?
• What can I do to prepare for any side effects?
• Are there medicines available to help me manage any side effects I may have?
• Can I continue to work or go to school during treatment?
• Will I see a doctor at each treatment?
• Should I bring a family member or friend along to each treatment?
• Will I need someone to drive me to and from treatments?
• How will we know if the chemotherapy treatments are working?
• After I finish chemotherapy, what kind of follow-up care will I receive?
• What activities should I do or not do to take care of myself?
• Are there any clinical trials for my type of cancer?
• What other resources offer information and support for chemotherapy patients?
When you sit down and ask the doctor these important questions regarding chemotherapy, the following tips might help you keep track of the information you learn during visits with your doctor:
• Bring a friend or family member to sit with you while you talk with your doctor. This will help you understand what your doctor says during your visit and they can help refresh your memory afterward.
• Ask your doctor for printed information that is available on your specific type of cancer and treatment.
• Take notes during your appointment. If you need more time to write ask your doctor to talk slowly.
• You may want to ask if you can use a tape recorder during your visit. Take notes from the tape after the visit is finished. That way, you can review your conversation later as many times as you wish.
Chemotherapy is difficult for anyone to undertake but if you are prepared by knowing what to expect throughout the treatment you may be able to handle it better both physically and mentally.