You may have been told that you will need chemotherapy treatment. This section has been designed to help you understand what chemotherapy is and what will happen to you during treatment.
It is important that you know what to do if you feel ill at home. If you have had chemotherapy within the last month and you think you have developed symptoms of infection such as a sore throat, a temperature above 38º C (100º F), shivering or you have unusual bruising or bleeding (for example, heavy nosebleeds) please contact Weston Park hospital 0114 226 5000 for urgent medical help.
Tell the switchboard operator where and when you last received your chemotherapy treatment – even if you were treated at Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal hospital, Rotherham District General hospital, Doncaster Royal Infirmary hospital or Barnsley District General hospital please contact us on the above number.
Our consultants work with a team of doctors. You may not always see the consultant but he or she is constantly monitoring your care. The clinics are run by a well informed team of nurses and they, together with the doctors, will answer your questions. You may find it useful to write down any questions before coming to the clinic.
If you are an outpatient you will usually have a blood test when you arrive to check your blood count. Chemotherapy can cause the numbers of blood cells to drop and you can become unwell. It is important that your blood has recovered from one cycle of chemotherapy before another is given - this is why you have a blood test.
There are 3 different sorts of cells in your blood - red cells, white cells, and platelets:
- If you are short of red cells you can become anaemic
- if you are short of white cells you are more susceptible to infection
- If you are short of platelets you could bruise easily or have nosebleeds or other unusual bleeding
When the results of the blood test are known, you will see the doctor and there will be a nurse there as well.
We may send you for other tests, for example, an X-ray. We will weigh you and measure your height. This is so that your dose of chemotherapy can be accurately worked out.
If your test results are acceptable your doctor will write a prescription and send it to the pharmacy for the chemotherapy to be prepared. In the pharmacy your prescription will be processed in strict rotation. All calculations are checked and the drugs are prepared in a sterile cabinet. This is all done on an individual basis for each patient.
The chemotherapy is then sent to the Chemotherapy Suite or Day Case Unit for the chemotherapy nurse to administer. Some drugs may be in syringes and some in bags. In general, it takes longer to give chemotherapy in bags - sometimes this can be over several hours.
If you are an inpatient you may be asked to attend a pre-chemotherapy assessment clinic a few days before you are due to be admitted to the ward for your treatment. At the clinic you will see a doctor and have a blood test to check your blood count. We will send you an appointment through the post if you are attending this clinic.
When you arrive on the ward the nurse will show you to your bed. If the bed is not ready, we will ask you to wait in the day room.
You will usually have a blood test to check your blood count before you have your chemotherapy; this may have already been done at the pre-chemotherapy assessment clinic. We may ask you to go to the Phlebotomy Department for a blood test or we may arrange to have the blood taken on the ward.
A nurse will check your details with you and you will also see the doctor shortly after you arrive. You might need other tests such as X rays and these will be arranged for you.
Your nurse will weigh you and measure your height. This is so that your dose of chemotherapy can be accurately worked out. If your test results are acceptable, your doctor will write a prescription and send it to the pharmacy for the chemotherapy to be prepared.
We may ask you to go to the Chemotherapy Suite to have a needle or cannula put into a vein in your arm, ready for starting the chemotherapy or this might be done on the ward
In the pharmacy your prescription will be processed in strict rotation. All calculations are checked and the drugs prepared in a sterile cabinet. This is all done on an individual basis. When it is ready, your chemotherapy will be sent to the ward and your treatment will be started.
Frequently asked questions
What is chemotherapy?
What do I need to bring to my appointment?
How do I arrange appointments?
Where will I have my treatment?
What will happen when I arrive?
How long will I have to wait for my chemotherapy to start?
How many other patients are being treated on the same day?
How long will my treatment take?
Will my treatment be painful? What should I do if I have any discomfort?
What do I do if I have other questions or concerns, or would like some advice?
What do I do if I have questions or concerns after I have gone home?
Chemotherapy is the use of a combination of drugs which together can kill off cancer cells. The combination of medicines given to you may be different from other patients depending on your condition. If you are unsure of your treatment at any time please ask your doctor.
Some chemotherapy can be given in the form of tablets so there is no need to stay in hospital and there are virtually no side effects. However, some people will need treatment in hospital by intravenous drip and the side-effects can sometimes be severe.
Many of the side effects of chemotherapy occur because some normal cells are killed as well as the cancer cells. However, cancer cells cannot repair themselves as well as normal cells so over time the normal cells will fully repair themselves but the cancer cells won't. We need to allow time for the normal cells to repair themselves, and this usually takes between two and four weeks. This is why chemotherapy is scheduled the way it is - to allow normal cells time to recover, knowing that the cancer cells won't
Medicines - Please bring with you any tablets or medicines which have been prescribed by your GP. Make sure that they are in the container supplied by the chemist.
The receptionist will try to give you a convenient return appointment. Please tell her if you expect to be on holiday or if you need a special time. If you are unable to keep your appointment please let us know by phoning the outpatient department. The number is on your appointment card.
If you have any problems or worries between appointments please telephone your named nurse in the outpatient department.
We will either send you an appointment through the post or you will be given one in the outpatient clinic. When you get your appointment it will say which department or ward to go to.
It will be one of the following:
- Outpatients department
- Chemotherapy suite (ground floor) or
- Day case services unit (second floor)
- Ward 2
- Ward 3
- Ward 4
- Teenage cancer unit
- Cancer research centre
Before you receive your chemotherapy we need to carry out some tests and you will usually see the doctor. This varies slightly depending on whether you are an inpatient or outpatient/day case, but we will tell you when you arrive.
If you are having chemotherapy in the Chemotherapy Suite or Day Case Services Unit you should expect to spend most of the day at the hospital. You may like to bring something to do whilst you wait. You can buy snacks and drinks from the WRVS bar on the ground floor.
The length of time you wait for your chemotherapy to start depends on a number of things:
- Whether your test results are as expected
- Whether more tests are needed
- Whether a more senior doctor needs to see you to talk about your condition or to examine you
- Whether your treatment is simple or complex
The number of patients being treated at one time varies according to whether you are being treated in the chemotherapy suite, the day case unit or on one of the wards.
Sometimes we may ask you to come back for your treatment a day or two after seeing the doctor. If your blood test results are low we will ask you to come back up to a week later to have a repeat blood test.
It may be possible for you to go out for an hour or two whilst your treatment is being prepared. Please check with your nurse before you leave the ward or department.
This varies from patient to patient. The nurse will give you an information sheet about your particular treatment which will explain how long yours will take.
The treatment is normally pain free. However, it is important that, when drugs are being given into the vein, the needle stays in place. If you feel any pain, please tell the nurse. If you feel unwell in any other way, please also tell the nurse looking after you.
The chemotherapy suite staff, the staff in the day case unit or the ward staff will be pleased to help. If your questions are specifically about your treatment please speak to the nurse or doctor in charge of your care.
You should telephone the ward or department where you have your treatment - the staff will be happy to help. Call the main hospital number (0114) 226 5000 and ask for the department or ward.