- It is suggested that you bring someone with you who can take notes and be supportive. Additionally you might want someone to drive you home the first time in case any of the medications used are sedating to you. Please note that we have limited space, so we ask that you bring just one person.
- We have blankets and pillows for your comfort; you may also bring your own. Treatment is given in a reclining chair; we also have two rooms with beds available to patients who are not feeling well, or have special needs or procedures. In the event that you feel you need a bed, please notify the nurse or scheduler to arrange for one.
- Feel free to bring reading material, or laptops, for which we have free Wi-Fi access.
- You may bring your own snacks or lunch (if your treatment requires several hours). There is a cafe in the lobby of the Medical Center where everything from drinks and snacks to hot meals are available. Within the cancer center, we provide coffee, tea, water, juices and crackers.
- Unless otherwise instructed by your doctor, you are encouraged to have breakfast and take your morning medications before your treatment.
When you arrive, please check in with the receptionist who will take care of your co-payments (if required by your insurance company) and any other necessary paperwork, after which you may sit in the reception area until you are called.
You will be called in by one of the clinical staff members who will bring you to the lab area where your vital signs and any necessary blood samples will be be obtained.
You will then be taken to an exam room where you will meet with your doctor or one of the physician assistants to review the treatment plan for that day, go over your medications, and address any questions, concerns,or symptoms you may have.
Finally you will be escorted to the treatment area by your doctor who will go over the orders for your treatment with one of the chemotherapy nurses.
The chemotherapy nurses will tell you where to sit, and will go over how they will be administering your treatment to you,and what side-effects you may experience.The nurse will also explain any instructions for medications that have been prescribed for you to take at home, and anything else you may need to do after your treatment.
The medications that will be prescribed for you can be easily obtained with our in-house pharmacy services. Our pharmacy staff will work with your insurance plan, and fill the prescriptions for you so they are ready before you leave. The pharmacy staff will also call in prescriptions and refills to a pharmacy of your choice if you prefer. For more information please call the medication line at 908.788.6434.
After your treatment:
Before you leave the cancer center, please stop at the desk with the discharge coordinators to schedule any follow-up appointments for further treatments, or doctor visits and/or lab tests. The discharge coordinators will also help you to schedule any other procedures (such as biopsies) or imaging tests (such as mammograms or CT scans) that your doctor may have ordered.
Please follow the instructions that your doctor or the nurses have given you. If at any time you have a question or concern, please call the main number (908-788-6461) and someone will be able to help you. If it is after hours, or on a weekend or holiday, the answering service will ensure that the doctor on call receives your message, and he will call you back.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms or a medical emergency, please call 911 and proceed to the nearest emergency center.
Many people go through chemotherapy with little to no discomforting side effects. However, your doctor will work with you to eliminate or manage any symptoms you may experience due to your cancer or from side-effects of the chemotherapy treatment. Some symptoms will require medications which your doctor will prescribe, but there will be many simple things you can do for yourself such as drinking adequate water, resting if you feel tired, eating healthy foods – and trying to eat even when you don’t have an appetite. If you are feeling well enough, light exercise is also beneficial. Those actions will help your body to process and eliminate the toxic effects of the chemotherapy so that side-effects may be lessened. Some of the side-effects you may need help with are as follows:
- Nauseousness – Your doctor will prescribe medications for you to take, and give you instructions on when to take them. Our registered dietitian can help you to choose foods that will be gentle on your stomach and provide the nutrition you need. Some people find relief with using things such as ginger, acupuncture, or seasick bands.
- Constipation/Diarrhea – The doctor can prescribe medication to control this and the dietician can help you choose foods that will help to regain normal digestive function.
- Bone Marrow Suppression – Chemotherapy can temporarily suppress your bone marrow from producing a normal amount of blood cells. Your blood cell counts will be monitored regularly because of this. In time your normal cell production usually resumes. If your counts decline too low you may receive medication to stimulate bone marrow production, you may require a transfusion , and treatment may be postponed until your counts recover.
- If your white blood cell is low, your ability to fight infection is compromised. We ask that you take care to avoid crowds and sick people (especially children), wash your hands often, and avoid eating raw foods – fruits and vegetables are best eaten washed and peeled , or cooked. If you develop a fever higher than 100.5 degrees, a sore throat or cough, or pain and redness at any surgical or catheter site, please call for an immediate appointment.
- If your red blood cell count is low you may feel tired and weak. It is best to avoid any strenuous activity until the count goes up. If you are experiencing light-headedness or shortness of breath during normal activities, call for an appointment. If you are passing out or have extreme shortness of breath, call 911.
- If your platelet count is low, you may have increased bruising or red/purple pinpoint dots on your skin. Report these symptoms to your doctor. If you have a cut or nosebleed that will not stop bleeding, go to your nearest emergency center.
- Other side effects that are possible with chemotherapy are: difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, neuropathy (numbness or tingling) in your hands or feet, and rashes. If you have any of these or other symptoms be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
The chemotherapy nurses are a great source of tips and practical measures that you can use to help with side-effects.
Chemotherapy and Normal Life
Many people are able to maintain their normal lifestyle during their chemotherapy treatments. Much of it depends on how you are feeling and the degree to which you are experiencing side-effects. Some of the things for you to consider and discuss with your doctor include:
Your ability to maintain your normal work schedule. We will try to schedule your treatments and other appointments so that the need to take time off from your job is minimized. If this is not possible, or you are not well enough to go to work, we will help you to file disability forms.
Your participation in your normal activities- If you regularly participate in any sport or physical activity, please discuss it with your doctor, as physical exertion may not be appropriate, and exposure to germs may be a concern.
Travel – If you travel for business, or have a vacation planned, please discuss this with your doctor. Some chemotherapy regimes must be administered with specific timing and some treatments may cause side-effects that require monitoring.
Sexual relations/Family planning – Sexual relations may be affected by side-effects as well as hormonal shifts during chemotherapy. It is helpful to be open with your partner, and obtain information from your health care team.
Please note that chemotherapy is excreted in semen, vaginal secretions and urine. Barrier methods such as condoms should be used during this time.Double flush the toilet in case of pets or small children having contact with toilet water. Pregnancy must be avoided at this time. Furthermore, some chemotherapy drugs can affect future fertility. In this case, your doctor can provide information on sperm banking or egg preservation.
Emotional management – Undergoing cancer treatment can affect you on many levels from financial concerns to family relationships. It is important to have some kind of support whether it be from family, friends, co-workers or professional counselors. If you do not have a base of support, or feel that you are depressed, please talk to your doctor so that he may make the appropriate recommendations or referrals. The staff of Hunterdon Regional Cancer Center includes a psycho-social clinical counselor as well as a financial counselor.