Friday, June 18, 2010

Chemotherapy Cycles and Schedules

Chemotherapy Cycles

Chemo is typically given in cycles, with rest periods between the cycles. A cycle can last 1 or more days. A cycle is typically given every 1, 2, 3, or 4 weeks. A typical course may consist of multiple cycles.

Receiving some chemotherapy drugs may take a relatively short period of time, while others may take hours. It all depends on the treatment regimen that your doctor prescribes.

If your chemo is given through an IV, your doctor may suggest an implanted vascular access device (VAD), such as an implanted catheter or port. VADs are surgically placed in a large vein near the heart and can stay in place for long periods of time. A VAD eliminates the need to have smaller catheters repeatedly placed in arm veins.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Will I Lose My Hair with the Chemotherapy?

Many chemotherapy agents cause hair loss otherwise known as alopecia. Chemotherapy affects the growth of rapidly reproducing cells. The cells that make hair are rapidly reproducing hence, they are affected. Some chemotherapies will cause all the hair to fall out (Taxol, Adriamycin). Some will cause the hair to thin.

Hair loss usually starts to occur within one to three weeks after the initiation of treatment. You will need to discuss the affect your chemotherapy will have on your hair with your MD. Since chemotherapy is such a strong agent, there is little you can do to avoid hair loss altogether. Years ago, ice caps (giant ice wraps around your head), and tourniquets around the scalp were popular. They were not very effective mostly due to the discomfort of wearing them throughout the treatment. Also, it was dangerous for those persons who were at risk of developing scalp or skin metestases. Chemotherapy medications act on fast growing cells for a period longer than most people can wear an ice cap or tourniquet.

You can slow the rate of hair loss by being gentle with your hair. Wash only as needed, do not pull on hair or use rubberbands. Use gentle soaps. Avoid heat generating hair appliances such as blow dryers and hot rollers. Do not color or perm hair during this time. If you are interested in wearing a wig, consider trying them on before you lose your hair. It's nice to match color, style and thickness. Hair loss is one of the most distressing side effects of chemotherapy. It is an outward reminder of what you are going through.

Remember, your hair loss is temporary. Your hair will grow back after treatment is ended. You will notice hair growth usually within a month after your last treatment. Your hair may come back a different shade or texture. Remember too, your hair acts as an insulation to your head. You may notice you feel much colder after you have lost your hair. Hats and scarves can provide the extra insulation you need to keep your head warm.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Will chemo be my only treatment for cancer?

Sometimes chemo is the only treatment you need. More often, chemo is used along with surgery or radiation therapy or with both. Here's why:

* Chemo may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation therapy.

* It may be used after surgery or radiation therapy to help kill any remaining cancer cells.

* It may be used with other treatments if your cancer comes back.

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