Ways & How

how to prepare for chemo

how to prepare for chemo

For cancer patients, chemotherapy should be viewed with a positive attitude. This cancer treatment procedure uses medicines to weaken and kill the cancer cells. As mentioned at breastcancer.org, chemo “is a systemic therapy, which means it affects the whole body by going through the bloodstream.” Before going through the treatment, there are few important factors to remember on how to prepare for chemo. There are a number of medicines being used in chemotherapy. Usually, a combination of two, three or more medicines is used depending on the type and degree of cancer. For example, for a breast cancer patient being prepared for operation, chemotherapy may be administered first in order to shrink the size of the tumor before the actual surgery is performed. Standard chemo regimen combinations include (a) Adriamycin and Taxotere, (b) Adriamycin and Cytoxan (with or without Taxotere), (c) Cytoxan, Methotrexate and Fluorouracil, (d) Cytoxan, Ellence and Fluorouracil, (e) Cytoxan, Adriamycin and Fluorouracil, (f) Taxotere, Adriamycin and Cytoxan and (g) Gemzar, Ellence and Taxol. Here are the things you need to remember before the chemo treatment.



  1. Have a blood test. This test has two purposes: to test for certain genes and to ensure that your health is in good condition. First, your oncologist will inform you to undergo a test to determine if you have genes in your cells that indicate certain chemo drugs should not be administered or the doses should be adjusted.

    Secondly, the test will show if your current health status will allow chemotherapy treatment. Unhealthy patients are normally not allowed to undergo chemo immediately because the procedure may not be safe for them. In that case, the treatment is delayed for some other time.

  2. Have a complete dental check-up. Chemocare.com pointed out that “this is especially true if you know you need dental work.” The mouth has bacteria which, if not removed, can make the body susceptible to infections after the chemo treatment. Remember, chemotherapy weakens the immune system. If you cannot see a dentist, inform your chemo doctor.

  3. Get a Pap smear exam. For females, this Pap test is recommended before the chemo treatment. As explained on womenshealth.gov, the test will tell if the patient has an infection, unhealthy cervical cells or cervical cancer. Sometimes, the therapy can affect the cervix and the cells therein for six to twelve months after the treatment. Ideally, women must include a Pap test into their health care routine.

  4. Know the side effects. You should not be caught by surprise while going through the treatment. The common side effects of chemotherapy include hair loss (alopecia), appetite loss, constipation, diarrhea, fever, nausea, fatigue, and stomach ulcers. As long as you know all these beforehand, you can prepare carefully. For example, you can buy a wig ahead of time.

  5. Ask someone to do the household chores. This is important because after the first part of the therapy is administered, you will no longer feel comfortable moving around the house. To maintain a normal life at home, especially for the kids, someone should help you do the usual routines like cleaning and cooking.

  6. Inform the doctor of the supplements and vitamins you are currently taking. There are certain vitamins and allergy medicines that can interact with the treatment. The doctor needs to know everything you are taking, including laxatives, herbs, aspirin, ibuprofen and cold medicines. In that way, the doctor can advise you which medicine or medicines you must stop taking so as not to affect the chemotherapy.

  7. Keep yourself comfortable. Before getting chemo, wear comfortable clothing. Inside the chemo room, you can sleep over a bed or just sit down on a chair. You may also bring a book to read while the treatment is going on.

These tips on how to prepare for chemo are recommended for all types of cancer patients. After you and your medical team have identified the regimen appropriate for you, there may still be questions in your mind. Feel free to ask your oncologist and nurses. They can give you more information before the treatment finally sets in.

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