Chemotherapy

Understanding your chemotherapy treatment can help you prepare and reduce any anxiety you may be feeling and concerns you may have. We encourage you to speak to your doctor for advice tailored to your cancer and treatment plan.

Please send us a message if you would like more information about being treated at Icon or to find out how to become a patient.

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs that destroy cancer cells. There are many different kinds of chemotherapy medicines that may be used in different ways. The type of medicine that you receive, and how often it is needed, will depend on your type of cancer, its response to treatment, and how your body copes throughout the treatment process.

We will talk you through your treatment plan and why it’s the best possible approach for you, to ensure you feel as confident and prepared as possible before beginning treatment.

How is chemotherapy given?

At Icon, chemotherapy is administered as an outpatient at a day hospital.

Treatment can be delivered in a number of different ways, including orally, inserted into the vein, directly into the area affected by cancer, or as a cream. You will usually receive chemotherapy in multiple cycles over a certain amount of time, or for as long as it continues to be effective in treating your cancer.

Spreading the treatment out in cycles is important to allow the healthy cells in your body to recover before your next dose.

Chemotherapy might be used as your sole treatment or in combination with other treatments, such as before or after surgery or radiation therapy, or together with radiation therapy.

Side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy works by attacking cancer cells. However in the process healthy cells are also damaged. This is what causes many of the common side effects of chemotherapy, which are often temporary. The side effects you experience will vary depending on your specific chemotherapy medicines and how your body tolerates the treatment. Since you, your cancer and your treatment plan are unique, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience all of the side effects outlined below.

At Icon, we’re here to help you manage any side effects that you experience. These may include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • mouth sores or ulcers
  • increased risk of infection
  • increased risk of bruising
  • hair loss
  • muscle weakness
  • skin sensitivity to sunlight (specific drugs only)
  • nerve damage (specific drugs only)
  • dry or tired eyes
  • loss of appetite.

Frequently asked questions

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy works by killing cells that are rapidly dividing. While this is effective in attacking cancer cells, chemotherapy also targets normal healthy cells that are rapidly dividing. However, unlike cancer cells, normal cells can repair the damage and recover.

Will I get side effects from chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy works by attacking cancer cells, however in the process healthy cells are also damaged. This is what causes many of the common side effects of chemotherapy, which are often temporary. The side effects you experience will vary depending on your specific chemotherapy medicines and how your body tolerates the treatment. Since you, your cancer and your treatment plan are unique, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience all possible side effects.

At Icon, we’re here to help you manage any side effects that you experience.

What are the common side effects?
  • nausea and vomiting
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • mouth sores or ulcers
  • increased risk of infection
  • increased risk of bruising
  • hair loss
  • muscle weakness
  • skin sensitivity to sunlight (specific drugs only)
  • nerve damage (specific drugs only)
  • dry or tired eyes
  • loss of appetite.
Will I lose or gain weight during chemotherapy treatment?

How you respond to chemotherapy changes from person to person, and this also applies to whether you lose or gain weight. Your cancer can also affect your weight and if it changes. Please discuss any concerns you have about your weight during chemotherapy treatment with your care team.

Will I lose my hair as a result of my treatment?

Whether you lose your hair during chemotherapy treatment will depend on the type of drugs you receive. We encourage you to talk to your doctor or nurse, who will be able to let you know whether your treatment plan will cause hair loss.

Am I able to take vitamins and complementary medicines?

Certain vitamins and medicines can interfere with your chemotherapy treatment. It’s important to provide your doctor with a list of medicines you are taking, including those bought over-the-counter. Please also let your doctor know if you start any new medicines during treatment.

Can I exercise during my treatment?

Doing light exercise, such as walking, can help you manage fatigue and improve your wellbeing during chemotherapy treatment. Studies have shown that exercising while you are getting cancer treatment is associated with an improved outcome.

Can I continue to work while I’m being treated?

Whether you are able to continue working will depend on the kind of work you do, your specific treatment and how well you feel. Your doctor will be able to advise you on the best option for your personal situation.

Are there certain activities I won’t be able to do during treatment?

There may be certain activities you won’t be able to participate in during your chemotherapy treatment, which will depend on your specific treatment, diagnosis and your blood counts at the time. If you’re not sure whether you should or shouldn’t take part in an activity, please discuss this with your doctor or nurse.

Should I avoid people who are unwell while I’m being treated?

Chemotherapy can affect the production of white blood cells in your body, which protect against infection. When your white blood cells are low it’s important to avoid people who are unwell to reduce your risk of infection.

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