Cancer - Patient Experience

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How was your chemotherapy administered? Were there any complications that resulted from the delivery method?

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How is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy may be given in many ways.

  • Injection. The chemotherapy is given by a shot in a muscle in your arm, thigh, or hip or right under the skin in the fatty part of your arm, leg, or belly.
  • Intra-arterial (IA). The chemotherapy goes directly into the artery that is feeding the cancer.
  • Intraperitoneal (IP). The chemotherapy goes directly into the peritoneal cavity (the area that contains organs such as your intestines, stomach, liver, and ovaries).
  • Intravenous (IV). The chemotherapy goes directly into a vein.
  • Topically. The chemotherapy comes in a cream that you rub onto your skin.
  • Orally. The chemotherapy comes in pills, capsules, or liquids that you swallow.

Things to know about getting chemotherapy through an IV

Chemotherapy is often given through a thin needle that is placed in a vein on your hand or lower arm. Your nurse will put the needle in at the start of each treatment and remove it when treatment is over. Let your doctor or nurse know right away if you feel pain or burning while you are getting IV chemotherapy.

IV chemotherapy is often given through catheters or ports, sometimes with the help of a pump.

  • Catheters. A catheter is a soft, thin tube. A surgeon places one end of the catheter in a large vein, often in your chest area. The other end of the catheter stays outside your body. Most catheters stay in place until all your chemotherapy treatments are done. Catheters can also be used for drugs other than chemotherapy and to draw blood. Be sure to watch for signs of infection around your catheter.
  • Ports. A port is a small, round disc made of plastic or metal that is placed under your skin. A catheter connects the port to a large vein, most often in your chest. Your nurse can insert a needle into your port to give you chemotherapy or draw blood. This needle can be left in place for chemotherapy treatments that are given for more than 1 day. Be sure to watch for signs of infection around your port.
  • Pumps. Pumps are often attached to catheters or ports. They control how much and how fast chemotherapy goes into a catheter or port. Pumps can be internal or external. External pumps remain outside your body. Most people can carry these pumps with them. Internal pumps are placed under your skin during surgery.
Return to Chemotherapy

See what others are saying

Comment from: CANCER_GONE, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: October 02

I was diagnosed in January 2013 with stage 3 N1 colorectal cancer. I had a port installed in my chest and received 35 days chemotherapy (5 FU), and 28 radiation treatments by the end of April. I then had a mid-lap surgery with an ileostomy over the Memorial Day weekend. I carried that for 2 1/2 months and had it 'taken-down' first week of August. By Labor Day weekend I had started round 2 of chemotherapy. This time I had treatments at 2 week intervals with 3 drugs (oxaliplatin, leucovorin and 5FU SP). This went on for 6 months at 2 week intervals. The first round of chemotherapy I had minimal effects from the chemotherapy but during the second round, I have had neuropathy in my feet/hands and a total of 40 lb. weight loss.

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Comment from: Twanna, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: September 03

I have stage 4 colon cancer and currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I underwent surgery to insert a portal. It has been nothing but pain; at the time of surgery I weighed 95 pounds and they advised me that it could rub on my bone. Because of the location of the device, my bra and certain clothing pinches the sensitive area. Wearing a seat beat is impossible without a pillow or washcloth. After my treatments, I was given a pump to wear for two days. The only two issues with the pump is having to carry it around and answer well-meaning questions from strangers and when the alarm goes off it scares my dog.

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