Chemotherapy At Weirton Medical Cancer Center in Weirton, WV

How chemo works:

Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the body. Many different processes in the body at the cellular level occur to cause this. Chemotherapy works by targeting the processes that cause abnormal growth of cells. There are many different types of chemotherapy.

How chemo is given:

Chemotherapy can be taken by mouth or injected into the vein or muscle.  Chemotherapy can work alone as a single agent.  More than one chemotherapy agent can be given at once and this is referred to as combination chemotherapy.

Where chemo is given:

Treatment will often take place in the outpatient clinic/doctor’s office or at home.  In some situations, a patient may require being admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Side effects of chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy can affect each patient differently.  Since chemotherapy works by attacking rapidly dividing cells, it may also have an effect on normal dividing cells.  With each type of chemotherapy, there are more common side effects that may occur.  Specific side effects will be reviewed with you by your medical provider.  The following are potential side effects and management strategies:

Infection

  • Treatment may potentially weaken your immune system making you more at risk for infections.
  • Practice frequent hand washing
  • Have a thermometer at home to monitor for fevers

Diet/Nausea – Vomiting

  • If you feel sick after chemo, try to eat a light diet like crackers or cereal with very little milk.  This should pass in a day or two.
  • For weight loss, eat a diet high in calories.  Food containing fats such as ice cream are high in calories.
  • Neutropenic (counts are low) – Your doctor will tell you your counts are low and to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat small, frequent meals
  • Avoid foods that are fatty, heavily salted, spicy or sweet
  • Try to drink 8 oz glass of fluids every 2-4 hours for the next 24-48 hours – avoid caffeine

Bowel Movements

Constipation

  • Make sure you are drinking at least six, 8oz glasses of water every day (avoid caffeine).  If you go two days without a bowel movement and this is unusual for you, ask your doctor for suggestions.
  • Increase high fiber foods (berries, pears, vegetables, grains, apples, beans, shredded wheat)
  • Increase activity as tolerated
  • Avoid straining
  • Take stool softeners/laxatives as directed

Diarrhea

  • Eat low residue diet, high in protein and calories (refined breads and cereals, applesauce, canned fruits, well cooked and canned vegetables, well cooked meat, fish)
  • Avoid caffeine, fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Take anti-diarrheal as directed

Management Strategies:

Pain Control

  • Take your pain medication as directed.  Remember, most pain medicine takes at least 30 minutes to take effect.
  • If your pain is not controlled or if you experience a new type of pain, call your physician.
  • Avoid driving or operating equipment when taking medications

Mouth Care

  • Use a soft toothbrush
  • Rinse with salt water solution after meals and at bedtime.  (Use one teaspoon salt in one quart of water – discard after 24 hours).
  • Use Vaseline to prevent cracking of the lips
  • Avoid extremely hot liquids or foods that would burn your mouth
  • Check your mouth daily for mouth sores or white patches
  • Do not use mouthwashes that contain alcohol

Body Wastes

  • Use the toilet as usual but flush twice with lid closed for 48 hours after receiving chemotherapy.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after handling any urine, feces or vomitus at least 30-60 seconds.
  • Wash your skin if you get any urine, feces or vomitus on it for at least 15 seconds.
  • If anything splashes into your eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes and notify your doctor.
  • Pregnant women should avoid any direct contact with chemotherapy or contaminated was

Laundry

  • Items soiled with chemotherapy waste, urine, feces, sweat, vomitus should be put in the washer immediately.
  • Wash items separate from other laundry in hot water.
  • If you do not have a washer, place in a sealed, plastic bag until you can get to a washer.

Limit use of alcohol

Avoid direct sunlight, wear sunglasses and sunscreen SPF >30 to protect the skin

Discuss the use of any over the counter medications with provider before taking

Oral Chemotherapy

  • Call the office when you receive your medication.
  • Review the package label, be sure to check medication name and dosage carefully.
  • Transport and store medicine as instructed and outlined in the package labeling.
  • Use gloves and wash hands thoroughly before and after taking medications.
  • Caregivers must wear gloves at all times while handling your medication and anything that has come into contact with your medication to minimize exposure.
  • If you are using a pillbox, make sure you have a separate pillbox for your chemotherapy pills.

Call your physician if you experience any of the following:

  • Temperature greater than 100.5 degrees F or 38.0 degrees C or if develop shaking chills, sore throat, frequency and/or burning with urination
  • Bleeding – blood in sputum, urine or stool, bleeding from gums, nosebleeds or excessive bruising
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness or extreme fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting persists for more than 24 hours
  • Diarrhea or vomiting persists for more than 24 hours
  • Experience 4-5 loose stool a day
  • Mouth soreness, difficulty swallowing or white patches in the mouth
  • Rash – new or worsening

Frequently Asked Questions About Chemotherapy

Is it safe for family members to have contact with me during chemotherapy?

Yes. Being with loved ones is important.  Eating together and enjoying activates are all safe.

Is it safe for my family to use the same toilet as me?

Yes.  As long as the chemotherapy waste is cleaned from the toilet by wiping the seat with a Lysol or Clorox wipe after each use.

What should I do if I lose control of my bowel or bladder?

Use a disposable, plastic-backed pad or diaper to absorb the urine or stool.  Change immediately and wash skin for at least 15 seconds with soap and water.  If you have any ostomy, handle as hazardous waste.

What if I use a bedpan, urinal or commode?  What if I vomit?

You or your caregiver should wear gloves when emptying wastes.  Rinse the container with water after each use and wash it with soap and water at least once daily.

Is it safe to be sexually active during my treatment?

Special precautions need to be taken.  Speak with your physician or nurse.

Is it possible to become pregnant or father a child when receiving chemotherapy?

Yes.  A reliable method of birth control should be used.  Speak with your physician.

How should I store chemotherapy/hazardous medications in the home?

Store in a safe place away from children and pets.  Do not store in the bathroom as the humidity may damage the drugs.  Follow directions if to be kept refrigerated or protected from light.

Is it safe to dispose of chemotherapy/hazardous medications in the trash?

No.  You need to handle separately.  If you are taking chemotherapy at home, by mouth, injection or intravenously, you should have a special container to place all waste and equipment.  The company giving you your medications will provide you with a safe container for disposal.  If you do not have a container, then place in a double bag and return to your physician or home care nurse for proper disposal.  Do not throw hazardous waste into the garbage.

Can I travel with my chemotherapy/hazardous medications?

Usually, this is not a problem.  You may need special arrangements, so speak with your physician before arranging.

What should I do if I spill some chemotherapy/hazardous medications?

Put on 2 pairs of gloves.  Absorb the spill with a disposable sponge.  Clean the area with soap and water.  Dispose of all materials in the hazardous waste container.