Chemotherapy uses special drugs or drug combinations to destroy cancer cells. These drugs can be used as the primary treatment, or they can be combined with radiation therapy and/or surgery. Chemotherapy is most frequently given through a vein (intravenously); however, there are times when it can be taken by mouth or by an injection. Oncology nurses, under direct medical supervision, administer the chemotherapy drugs and provide instructions to help patients through treatments. A specific, individualized treatment plan is developed by the physician for each patient.
The length and frequency of chemotherapy treatment depends on a variety of factors. Prior to the start of treatment, the medical oncologist will explain a treatment plan to the patient.
Because chemotherapy affects the bone marrow, the body's cell-producing factory, we will monitor blood counts periodically throughout treatment. Patients are evaluated regularly by the medical oncologist and the oncology nurse.
Sometimes other non-chemotherapy drugs may be used to treat cancer. The medical oncologist evaluates each person individually to determine which medication is best for him or her.
Participation in a clinical trial may also be a treatment option. A clinical trial is a study conducted to evaluate a new treatment. The medications used in the trial are often the ones used in standard treatments (the ones now being used). Many new treatments or clinical trials are designed from the standard treatment with the goal of improving it. Medical oncologists may discuss this with patients. Only patients who wish to participate take part in a clinical trial.
The medical oncology team works together to continually monitor progress. Other health care professionals are also available to help you through your care at our center (see Support Systems).
Radiation therapy uses a machine called a linear accelerator to target painless, high energy x-rays directly at cancerous tissues. Cancer treatment is designed to destroy cancer cells as they are reproducing. Healthy cells may also be affected; however they have the ability to repair themselves and continue to grow normally.
You will have a team of health care professionals working together to provide your care. The radiation oncology team consists of the radiation oncologist, the physicist, dosimetrist, radiation therapists and oncology nurses. Other health care professionals are also available to help throughout a patient's care at our center.
Prior to starting radiation treatments, patients are scheduled for a treatment planning or simulation appointment. This is a very important process because it provides the radiation oncologist, physicist and dosimetrist with the information they need to assure safe and accurate delivery of your therapy. The simulation process takes, on average, one hour.
Radiation treatments are administered by radiation therapists and are regularly evaluated by the radiation oncologist. Radiation treatments are usually given five days a week for two to seven consecutive weeks. Each session lasts only a few minutes, so your treatment visits to the center will be brief.
Because radiation therapy affects bone marrow, the body's cell-producing factory, we monitor blood counts periodically throughout treatment. Patients are evaluated by the radiation oncologist and the oncology nurse at least once a week during the course of therapy.