Chemotherapy Patient Education

Chemotherapy Patient Education – Overview

Chemotherapy, or “chemo,” refers to cancer treatments that use chemicals to treat cancerous tumors. However, many cancer patients may not fully understand what the treatment entails and what it means for them.

As a health practitioner, you are responsible for providing patients with the right information about treatment. Here is what you need to tell them.

Chemo Can Cause Vomiting and Nausea

Some people experience these side effects for hours after therapy; others feel them on and off for days.

If a patient gets nauseated easily, ask them to inform their doctor so they can prescribe anti-nausea medication ahead of time.

Encourage them to try ginger or peppermint tea or ginger ale, which can help settle an upset stomach. They should also avoid greasy and spicy foods and carbonated drinks.

They can liaise with their doctor to devise a plan for managing these side effects, but they don’t need to worry too much until they need it.

There’s probably nothing that patients can do to prevent nausea and vomiting completely, but if it happens early in treatment, it tends to get better soon.

Treatment Varies

Treatment may include one drug at a time, multiple drugs at once, or a combination of treatments.

How a patient reacts to chemotherapy depends on many factors, including age, general health, and the type of cancer being treated.

Cancer Cells Grow and Spread Fast

Since that is the case, chemomedications are designed to kill rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

Healthy cells that divide rapidly, such as those in your hair, nails, and the linings of your mouth and intestines, can be affected by chemotherapy, even though the treatment is not designed to target these healthy cells.

That means healthy cells can be damaged by chemotherapy, leaving you feeling tired and nauseous or even causing your hair to fall out.

Toxicity affects every patient differently, so it is impossible to predict exactly how chemotherapy will affect a patient.

Some patients receive only one round of chemotherapy, while others need multiple treatments.

As a doctor, you are in the best position to determine the most appropriate dose to treat cancer while minimizing the risk of side effects.

Chemotherapy is Given in Cycles

Each cycle can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on how long it takes for the drugs to work and how much of the body’s normal tissue has been affected by the disease being treated.

A cycle may consist of one drug or more than one drug given at once.

The length of each cycle depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated and factors like age and overall health.

Doctors may recommend that patients repeat treatment for several cycles before taking a break and then resuming the treatment.

The Treatment Comes with Side Effects

Chemo can make one feel bad; it’s considered one of the most unpleasant types of treatment.

Some people experience nausea or vomiting during treatment; others get mouth sores, diarrhea, or hair loss.

Most people will experience fatigue, joint and muscle aches, and pains.

It’s important to let patients know what they are getting into during their first treatment cycle to prepare them for what comes next.

The side effects of chemotherapy aren’t always immediate, either.

Typically, a patient will feel the worst during the first few rounds of chemotherapy because their body hasn’t built up a tolerance for the medication yet.

Chemotherapy is not One Treatment

Chemotherapy is the term used to describe a range of cancer treatments that use medication, along with other treatments, to control and even destroy cancer cells.

Chemotherapy can be administered in several ways – as pills that are swallowed or injected into the body, as capsules that are implanted into the body, or as tablets that dissolve under the tongue.

One of the commonly used chemotherapy drugs is carboplatin, which is administered intravenously (directly into the vein), among various other chemotherapy drugs and methods of administration.

Chemotherapy Doesn’t Always Work

Chemotherapy can be used as part of a curative treatment plan for certain types of cancer, in addition to prolonging life or relieving symptoms caused by the disease. Research is being done to find better treatments to cure cancer.

Final Thoughts

Knowledge is power, and we believe that telling your patients what they need to know about chemotherapy makes it easier for them.

Share what we have discussed here, and we assure you that it will be worth your time.

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Current Version
March 13, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 25, 2024
Updated By
Franco Cuevas, MD

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