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Chemotherapy (also called systemic therapy) is a method of treating cancer by using drugs or medicines. Often a combination of chemotherapy drugs are used, but it depends on the individual and their specific needs. Your care team will work with you to decide the best plan for you.
Chemotherapy education video
For more information, watch our chemotherapy education video and learn how you can actively participate in the management of your care.  

How does chemotherapy work?
Cancer cells grow in an uncontrolled way. Chemotherapy drugs slow or stop the cancer cells from growing, multiplying or spreading (metastasizing) to other parts of your body.

Chemotherapy is a powerful treatment that affects the whole body, so healthy cells can also be damaged. Damage to healthy cells can cause side effects that are usually temporary. In time, healthy cells will repair themselves.

How is chemotherapy treatment given?
Chemotherapy can be given by mouth (orally), or by injection (intravenous (IV)), depending on the type of chemotherapy. Your care team will help you decide the best method for you.

Where do you receive chemotherapy?
If you are receiving intravenous chemotherapy, it is usually given in the chemotherapy suite located on the fourth floor of the cancer centre. You will meet pharmacists and nurses who are specially trained to provide chemotherapy. They will discuss with you your treatment and side effects in detail and answer any questions you may have.

Some chemotherapy treatments are also provided at the following locations:
If one of these locations is closer to home for you, ask your health care team about receiving treatments at the location of your choice.

If you are receiving oral chemotherapy, you will be given a prescription to fill and take home with you. This prescription can be filled at the hospital’s retail pharmacy, located next to the gift shop in Grand River Hospital’s main lobby, or in the satellite pharmacy next to the chemotherapy suite.

How long does chemotherapy treatment last?

Treatment plans vary to include daily, weekly and monthly treatments. Some visits may take less than 30 minutes while others may be five or six hours at a time. Once you and your health care team have determined the best treatment plan for you, they will be able to estimate the length of your particular treatment.

Are there any side effects?
Different drugs may cause different side effects in different people. Some patients experience no side effects and some patients can experience many side effects. Once you and your care team have determined your treatment plan, the doctor, nurse and pharmacist will review any potential side effects with you and give you advice on how to manage them.

Should I eat before receiving treatment?
Unless otherwise instructed by your oncologist, it is okay to have a meal before to coming for treatment.

Can I eat while I am receiving treatment?
Coffee, tea, juice, gingerale, water and cookies are available for patients while they are receiving treatment. If your treatment is long, you many want to consider bringing a lunch with you. Volunteers are also available to bring you items from Tim Horton’s or lunch from the cafeteria (which is open from 8am to 2pm). Please be considerate of other patients when bringing highly fragrant food into treatment areas.

Can I bring anything to help me pass the time while I am in the chemotherapy suite?
We encourage patients to bring lap tops, handheld video games, cards, books, magazines etc. Please be courteous of others receiving treatment by keeping volumes to a minimum or by wearing head phones.

Can I use my cell phone while in the chemotherapy suite?
Cell phones are not allowed in treatment areas to protect the confidentially and privacy of others. Please be sure to turn your cell phone off when entering the chemotherapy suite.

Can I family or friends to sit with me while I receive treatment?
Family and friends are welcome to sit with you while you receive treatment. Please try to limit the number of visitors to one to two people due to limited space.

Will I be able to drive myself to and from treatment?
Since the type of medications and their effects can vary, it is best to have someone drive you to and from your first treatment. Ask your nurse or pharmacist at your initial treatment if driving is allowed for subsequent treatments. Patients receiving Benadryl during their treatment are advised not to drive for four hours after receiving it. Volunteer drivers are available to you. Please ask at the main registration desk for more information.

Where can I get more information about cancer and my treatment?
Prior to the start of your first treatment you will receive a DVD which provides more information about your treatment and possible side effects. Please watch the DVD before your first treatment session and return it to the cancer centre when you are done. Links are also provided under the resources page for more information.

What should I do if there is a problem when I get home after receiving treatment?
The patient triage line, 519-749-4380, is available Monday to Friday from 8:30am to 4pm to answer any questions, seek advice from nursing or to get in touch with your care team. For urgent issues, please go to your nearest emergency department or call an ambulance. Please click here for more information on contacting your health care team.

What questions should I ask my health care team?
Since chemotherapy is very specific to each person, you may want to ask your health care team at the cancer centre the following questions about chemotherapy.
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