The most common ways to receive chemotherapy are through infusion or through pills you can take at home (oral chemotherapy).
Chemotherapy involves using medication to help eliminate cancer cells and keep them from multiplying in your body. Oral chemotherapy and chemotherapy by infusion have the same symptoms and side effects.
If you have chemotherapy by infusion, the medication is delivered by an infusion "pump," entering your bloodstream through a needle in your vein, a port, or catheter.
You'll receive your treatment in a comfortable reclining chair or a bed. At Dana-Farber, we offer lunch, complimentary snacks, and beverages to our patients during chemotherapy.
Because your pump is on wheels, you may be able to walk around while receiving your treatment. Your sessions last between one and several hours, and are generally scheduled at one- to three-week intervals.
You might receive additional medications and treatments (such as hydration) through infusion.
The length of chemotherapy infusions can vary. Your nurse or doctor will let you know how long your treatment may take. If possible, try to make your appointment before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m., as the middle of the day can be busy.
Juices, fruit, sandwiches, pastries, coffee, and tea are available throughout the day. Our friendly volunteers serve drinks, refreshments, and lunch. You can also bring your own snacks from home, or purchase some in our cafeteria.
You may bring one family member or friend to your infusion appointment. Children are welcome in the adult infusion areas if they are accompanied by another adult.
It's a good idea to bring books, magazines, puzzles, a laptop computer, or portable music (with earphones) to help pass the time. Our infusion areas have wireless internet access. We also offer iPads for patients to use during treatment visits.
Emergencies: call 617-632-3352 and ask for the adult oncology fellow on call.Clinical Research Center 617-632-5952
Monday – Friday: All infusion areas are open from 7:00 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.Saturday and Sunday: All patients are seen on Yawkey 8 from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.Holidays: All patients are seen on Yawkey 8 from 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Yawkey 7 Infusion – Gastrointestinal Oncology, Multiple Myeloma and Non-Malignant HematologyPhone number 857-215-0700
Yawkey 8 Infusion – Hematologic Malignancies, Bone Marrow Transplant and Neuro-OncologyPhone number 857-215-0800
Yawkey 9 Infusion – Breast Oncology Center, Sarcoma and Genitourinary OncologyPhone number 857-215-0900
Yawkey 10 Infusion – Gynecologic Oncology, Thoracic Oncology and Head and Neck OncologyPhone number 857-215-1000
Some patients experience side effects from chemotherapy, such as hair loss, nausea, or fatigue.
Side effects are usually caused by the activity of anti-cancer drugs in your normal cells, especially cells that multiply rapidly, such as those in your bone marrow, mouth, stomach, intestines, hair follicles, and reproductive cells (sperm and egg).
Most side effects can be managed, so it's important to listen to your body during treatment and talk with your doctor or nurse about any changes you notice.
When you're receiving chemotherapy, you may be more likely to catch colds, flu, and other contagious diseases. You can protect yourself and help us protect other patients while you're at Dana-Farber.
Patient safety is a priority for Dana-Farber, especially when your care involves chemotherapy. We have many systems in place to enhance the safety of our patients, including a computerized ordering system and bar-coded medications that help us make sure you are getting the right one. We encourage you to help make your experience safer by speaking up if something doesn't seem right.
Sometimes chemotherapy is given as part of a clinical trial, in which researchers are studying the safety or effectiveness of the medication. If you are participating in a clinical trial, your infusion might take place in Dana-Farber's Clinical Research Center instead of on one of the main infusion floors.
Oral chemotherapy is a cancer-fighting drug given by mouth in tablet, capsule, or liquid form. It is prescribed by your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician's assistant, and has the same benefits and risks as chemotherapy given by infusion.
Today, many cancer patients receive oral chemotherapy as a treatment. This method is sometimes easier than getting chemotherapy by infusion at the hospital or clinic, because the medicine can be taken at home. It's important to understand that these pills can be just as strong as the intravenous form of chemotherapy.
Dana-Farber — a leader in patient safety and an innovator in the safe administration of chemotherapy by infusion — is committed to educating patients and their families about the benefits and risks of oral chemotherapy. We apply the same safeguards to oral chemotherapy that we do for infusions. Patient education is central to this mission.
Oral chemotherapy is a serious treatment. When taking oral chemotherapy at home, patients must understand special instructions, precautions, and side effects. Following these instructions will help you receive the most benefit from the drug.
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Communicate with your other health care providers. Be sure your primary care physician, dentist, and other caregivers are informed about the oral chemotherapy you are taking.
Most oral chemotherapy medicine is stored at room temperature, away from heat or moisture. Your doctor or nurse will tell you if your medication needs special storage or handling.
For more information about oral chemotherapy handling, storage and disposal, see Dana-Farber's oral chemotherapy fact sheet.
Remembering to take your medication at the right time of day is not as easy as it may sound, especially if you have an active life.
Depending on the type of oral chemotherapy you are taking, you might experience some unique side effects. It's important to keep in close contact with your oncology team. Plan ahead: Keep contact numbers for your doctor or nurse, along with your drug information, in a prominent place.
Oral chemotherapy is becoming more common to treat many types of cancers. Partnering with your oncology team and communicating any concerns is an important part of your treatment plan:
Better Coverage for Oral Chemo: Why It MattersChemotherapy Related Neuropathy: Managing This Nerve Wracking ProblemOral chemotherapy fact sheet
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