How Does Chemotherapy Work?

Chemotherapy medicines work to prevent the growing, spreading and dividing of cancer cells at the cancer site and throughout the body. The chemo medicines weaken the cancer cells.

Chemo can be given to treat early stages and/or advanced stages of breast cancer. Chemotherapy that is given before surgery is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Neoadjuvant chemo is given before surgery to help shrink the cancer so that less tissue has to be removed.

Chemotherapy that is giving after surgery is called adjuvant.  Adjuvant chemo is given after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may have been left after surgery. It also reduces the risk of the cancer coming back.

Sometimes chemotherapy is a combination of medicines given at the same time, this is called a chemotherapy regimen. In early stage breast cancer, a chemotherapy regimen can lower the risk of cancer coming back. In advanced stage breast cancer, a chemotherapy regimen can shrink cancer.

Who Receives Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is used for all stages of breast cancer.

What to Expect

Once you and your doctor have decided on chemotherapy, you will be given information on how the chemo will affect your life while receiving treatment. The doctor will discuss possible side effects and let you know what to expect during the entire chemo process. However, chemo treatment and side effects experienced are different for everyone.

Chemotherapy can be given through infusion by an oncology specialist or in pill form at home. If you experience any severe side effects from your chemo treatment, call your doctor immediately.

Chemotherapy Infusion

The following is what to expect when getting chemotherapy through infusion.

Before you start your chemotherapy treatment you will meet your oncologist and go over your medical history, the chemo process and schedule your first appointment. On the day of treatment you will sign in and meet the technician that will be administering your medicine. They will check your blood pressure, pulse, temperature and respiration rate. They will also check your height and weight so that they give the proper amount of medicine. 

Chemotherapy infusion is administered through your IV or, for long-term therapy, through a temporary, surgically-implanted port. This provides an easier way for medicine to enter the veins. The port placement procedure is done at Christian Hospital as an outpatient.  Once the medicine has been distributed, the doctor or oncology nurse will go over the possible side affects you may experience and contact numbers in case of questions or emergency.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Below are the most common side effects of chemotherapy.

  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fertility issues
  • Hair loss or changes
  • Infection
  • Menopause
  • Mouth or throat sores
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Weight changes
  • Taste/smell changes

To speak to a breast cancer treatment specialist or to schedule an appointment, call the Christian Hospital Breast Health Center at 877.747.9355 or email us.