These FAQs have been written to include some of the most frequently asked questions around being referred for chemotherapy and receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer. If you have any queries that are not covered below or would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact your support team or our enquiries team.

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Receiving Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a treatment that uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to treat different types of cancers. Sometimes referred to as systemic therapy, chemotherapy drugs are designed to prevent cancer cells from repairing themselves, eventually leading to the death of the cells that are abnormally mutating. 

Chemotherapy as a treatment is intended to damage the cancer cells’ ability to divide and grow. With regular treatments, chemotherapy drugs continuously cycle throughout the bloodstream, attacking all cancer cells within the body.

Radiotherapy is known as a targeted treatment that uses radiation to treat cancer by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. Radiotherapy is usually used for targeting tumours found in one area of the body. Chemotherapy is a full-body treatment that is effective for delivering treatment throughout the entire body to destroy cancer cells. 

Chemotherapy is a very effective treatment that is regularly used to treat different types of cancer. It is commonly used when cancers have spread or if there is a risk of the cancer spreading. Although chemotherapy is very effective due to the types of strong drugs used, it can cause a number of side effects.

Yes, chemotherapy can be used before, after, or in combination with other types of cancer treatments. Chemoradiation is the name given to chemotherapy that is delivered in combination with radiotherapy to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy.

No, you will not require general anaesthetic to receive chemotherapy. At Rutherford Cancer Centres, chemotherapy is delivered in our state-of-the-art chemotherapy suites that have been designed to put patient comfort and safety first.

Yes, cancer in children can be treated using chemotherapy, however, at the Rutherford Cancer Centres chemotherapy is only offered to adult patients currently.

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Yes, depending on the treatment plan that has been tailored for you, chemotherapy can be used before or after surgery.

The use of chemotherapy in place, before, or after surgery is completely dependent on the patient and the type and staging of cancer. Chemotherapy is more commonly offered alongside surgery to reduce the risk of cancer returning or shrink a tumour prior to removal. 

 

High dose chemotherapy is an aggressive form of chemotherapy that uses high strength drugs to treat cancer. High dose chemotherapy is only used in certain circumstances as it carries a risk of severe side effects and can also damage bone marrow. 

Oral chemotherapy is a course of chemotherapy that can be prescribed and taken at home. It is delivered in the form of tablets that are taken by mouth.

Systemic chemotherapy is the name given to the most common type of chemotherapy which is delivered as a full-body treatment and travels throughout the bloodstream.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is the name given to chemotherapy treatment delivered prior to surgery. Adjuvant chemotherapy is the use of chemotherapy treatment after surgery or radiotherapy to reduce the risk of cancer cells returning.

Yes, chemotherapy used to treat cancer does impact and weaken the immune system. After treatment has finished, it normally takes patients a month for the immune system to start recovering.

During my Treatment

Chemotherapy is usually given as a course of treatment; one course can last typically last between 3-6 months. Within the timeframe of a course of treatment, you will be given chemotherapy drugs in cycles, which can take 3-4 weeks at a time. It is important to have a break in between chemotherapy cycles to allow the body to recover. The number of cycles delivered is dependent on the patient and the type and staging of cancer. Two patients with the same type and staging of cancer can still have two entirely different chemotherapy plans due to personal health and family history.

The time it takes for chemotherapy to be delivered varies between patients. Some patients may only require a 30-minute session, while others can take several hours or may be required to spend a full day in the chemotherapy suite.

Your treatment team will provide guidance and support for improving your lifestyle while receiving chemotherapy. Recommendations include avoiding people who are sick, particularly with colds or other infections, as chemotherapy patients are more at risk due to a weakened immune system. Patients should also drink plenty of fluids (water) in the 48 hours following chemotherapy treatment to help the drugs cycle through the body.

The chemotherapy drugs given will be dependent on the type and staging of cancer and your general health and fitness. Your treatment or supportive care team for more can give you more information about the types of chemotherapy drugs offered.

The frequency of chemotherapy treatment given is dependent on the individual patient. Some patients will require treatment for a few hours each day for a number of weeks. Others may only need to receive treatment for a few days each month.

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A specific diet is not required for chemotherapy but eating healthily is recommended to ensure the body has the best chance of recovery. We recommend that the food you eat should be prepared and stored to a high standard of hygiene and unpasteurised foods, soft cheeses and pâtés should be avoided. The supportive care team can provide assistance from a dietician to help patients with any problems as a result of receiving treatment.

A healthy lifestyle is important for ensuring the best chance of recovery when receiving any type of cancer treatment. A healthy lifestyle includes eating well and exercising where possible. It is most important that patients undergoing chemotherapy avoid people who are ill as they are at risk of infection due to a weakened immune system.

Receiving chemotherapy should not cause any pain, however, the side effects of chemotherapy can be painful. If you feel pain during the administration of chemotherapy, let your oncology nurse know so they can check your intravenous line (IV).

Some patients continue working during chemotherapy or reduce their hours to part-time. If you feel unable to work or your job exposes you to certain risks that can affect your treatment, you should talk to management about taking time away from work.

Yes, while it is completely safe for others to be near a patient receiving chemotherapy, consideration should be taken to prevent potential infection.

It is safe for children to come into contact with a patient receiving chemotherapy, although more care should be taken to ensure consistent hand hygiene to prevent the spread of illnesses.

Every single person is different, from their medical history and health status to the details of the cancer location, type and staging. Every patient requires adjustments to their tailored cancer treatment plan, meaning patients with the same diagnosis can have completely different treatment plans that are tailored specifically to their individual needs

No, although the side effects of receiving chemotherapy can cause vulnerability in immune systems, making patients more prone to illness and infection. Workplaces are legally required to make accommodations where necessary for staff undergoing cancer treatment.

Macmillan has provided a detailed resource on Work and Cancer for patients receiving cancer treatments.

No, chemotherapy is delivered as an outpatient procedure at Rutherford Cancer Centres and no patient is required to stay overnight.

After diagnosis, referral and the initial consultations with the cancer care team (to determine if chemotherapy is the best course of treatment), you will meet with your consultant clinical oncologist to discuss the benefits and risks of chemotherapy and confirm consent for the treatment.

Before treatment begins, tests will be carried out to determine your general health, including X-Rays and other scans, to identify the size of the cancer and blood tests to check the health of your liver, kidneys, and other vital organs. Additionally, height and weight measurements are recorded to ensure the correct dosage is offered during treatment.

Treatment is delivered as per your treatment plan, over a series of weeks or depending on the number of sessions required and how frequently they occur will be decided in your treatment plan. Regular tests will be carried out during your treatment to monitor your progress and general health.

After treatment is finished, we will continue to track the progress of your treatment and healing with regular health checks. Some side effects can persist after treatment while the body recovers. Our supportive care teams are still available to help with physical or emotional side effects, even after treatment has finished.

When receiving any kind of medical treatment, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important as it makes it easier to manage side effects and ensures your body has the best chance of recovery between and after treatments.

Getting plenty of rest is essential to recovery, as tiredness and fatigue are commonly felt side effects for patients undergoing cancer treatments. Getting plenty of sleep and aiming to stay active while awake is helpful in making sleep more restful. Take as many rests during the day as required, either napping or spending time sitting in a relaxing and calm environment.

The body requires a measured diet of nutritious meals to support the recovery process, but this can be difficult when managing side effects such as nausea. To help maintain a healthy diet, your supportive care team can provide advice and guidance for meal planning and managing feelings of nausea during treatment.

No. Chemotherapy delivered intravenously (through a needle into the vein) may cause some discomfort around the injection site however receiving the treatment shouldn’t cause any pain. Chemotherapy delivered orally, via tablets, will not cause pain or discomfort during delivery.

 

As the issues associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) continue, our number one priority at the Rutherford is the health and safety of our patients, colleagues and partners. We are committed to following all Department of Health guidance and ensuring the strict code of hygiene and other appropriate measures are in place in all Rutherford Cancer Centres. Relatives and friends are asked to wait in their cars unless it is identified that they need to accompany the patient, this is to reduce the number of people in our centres at any one time.

The time taken for each chemotherapy session will be dependent on the individual treatment plan. Some sessions can be as short as half an hour but, on average, chemotherapy treatment sessions usually last several hours and can take up to a whole day.

The effectiveness of chemotherapy is dependent on a strict treatment regimen that takes place over a set period of time. Avoid missing treatments wherever possible. If you are feeling unwell, your consultant clinical oncologist can make amendments to your treatment plan for a short while and schedule additional treatments in the future.

The consultant oncologist takes overall responsibility for your treatment. The number of times you will see your consultant oncologist during treatment will depend on your individual treatment pathway and circumstances. They use their medical skills and experience to determine and plan the most appropriate treatment for you and ensure that you are supported during your treatment.

Your oncologist may request to see you during treatment if it’s needed, or they may recommend that your treatment team carry out regular assessments during treatment and keep them informed about your wellbeing throughout instead. If you have any concerns during your treatment, you can always ask to see your oncologist as and when you need to.

As with any diagnosis and cancer treatment plan, emotional and mental health is going to be affected. The supportive care team is available to provide physical, mental, and emotional support to patients whenever it is required, during or after their treatment and can provide access to additional therapies where required.

Yes, it is important to maintain strength during cancer treatment which includes maintaining a healthy diet. However, chemotherapy treatment can cause nausea so avoiding heavy meals and drinking plenty of fluids before each session is recommended.

Fatigue and tiredness are commonly experienced side effects during cancer treatment. Patients may feel tired or sleepy during their treatment session, however, should avoid taking a nap or going to sleep as this can affect the restfulness of sleep in the evening.

Oral chemotherapy is delivered in a tablet, capsule, or liquid form that is taken by mouth.

The number of chemotherapy sessions needed is determined in your individual treatment plan and can vary between patients and the different stages and types of cancer.

 

The frequency of chemotherapy sessions is determined in the tailored patient treatment plan and can vary dependent on the staging and type of cancer.

Cancer treatments can weaken the immune system so practising good hygiene is important for avoiding infections. This includes:

  • Regularly washing hands with hot water and soap
  • Washing hands after using the bathroom
  • Washing hands before preparing and before eating food
  • Regular showers or baths
  • Avoid sharing towels, flannels, or washcloths with others
  • Washing hands after contact with animals
  • Avoiding crowded or public spaces (including transport)
  • Avoiding others that are ill or with obvious infections

Hair loss is a common side effect of some chemotherapy drugs and can have an effect on your mental and emotional health. Talking to family, friends and support groups can help patients prepare themselves for the loss of hair and help with feelings of control. Some people choose to wear a wig, hat or scarves, while others cut their hair shorter prior to treatment.

Hair may become dry or brittle during treatment, so taking extra care of your hair during this time can help to reduce the noticeable loss. This includes washing hair at least once every two days, using gentle style tips such as gentle rubbing when towel-drying hair and using wide-spaced or wide-toothed combs and brushes. Avoiding heat, including hairdryers and hair straighteners, can prevent drying hair out and causing further damage. Patients are recommended to avoid colouring, perming or chemically relaxing their hair during treatment.

Macmillan has several tips that help people cope with hair loss during cancer treatment, including:

  • Wearing brightly coloured clothing such as tops, jumpers, ties and neck scarves
  • Using make-up to draw attention to your face
  • Wearing glasses which can help cover the loss of eyebrows and eyelashes
  • Wearing your favourite type of jewellery to complement your outfit or headdressAs hair grows back, it is important to avoid massaging or rubbing the scalp as this can damage new hair growth. Talking to a hairdresser who is experienced in helping cancer patients can help patients find new styles as hair starts to recover and regrow.

Chemotherapy affects the immune system by reducing the number of white blood cells the body produces. This reduces the body’s natural defence against illness and infection and is at greatest risk between seven and 14 days after receiving chemotherapy. This is when the white blood cell count will be at its lowest and is known as ‘nadir’. After this time, the white blood cell count in the body will gradually start to increase and return to normal.

Different chemotherapy treatment drugs will act differently for each patient, however, chemotherapy drugs tend to remain in the system for two to three days after each treatment session.

White blood cells are produced naturally by the body, so it is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and try to remain active during cancer treatments to ensure the body has the best chance of recovery.

The metallic taste is a commonly experienced side effect of some patients undergoing chemotherapy. To reduce the taste, try eating stronger tasting foods including spices, ginger and sugary boiled sweets. It is also recommended to eat more at the beginning of the day as the changes in taste can be more noticeable as the day goes on.

Chemotherapy at Rutherford Cancer Centres

The names of our chemotherapy teams change from centre to centre, however, your cancer care team will be made up of the following job roles and responsibilities:

Consultant Clinical Oncologist 

The clinical oncologist is responsible for overseeing the entire treatment process and will work closely with the chemotherapy treatment team to develop the best plan for each patient. The clinical oncologist will monitor the progress of treatment and adjust the treatment plan if necessary.

Oncology Nurse

The oncology nurse administers treatment for patients. They are the main point of support for patients and their families and will be on hand to provide information around side effects and how to manage them. They will be available to explain any potential changes that could occur during the treatment and will also be available after treatment is finished to provide advice and supportive care as needed.

Oncology Clinical Pharmacist

A specialised oncology pharmacist will oversee the use of drugs to treat cancer during chemotherapy treatment including the monitoring of prescribed drugs to prevent severe side effects.

Chemotherapy treatments are delivered by the oncology nurse who is specialised in cancer care. Oncology nurses coordinate with other members of the team to ensure the needs of the patient are met before, during and after the delivery of chemotherapy treatment.

 

If you are going to be late for an appointment, please let the supportive care to treatment team know as soon as possible, so adjustments to your treatment session can be arranged.

Before beginning treatment, it is important to let the chemotherapy team know if you are pregnant as many chemotherapy drugs can interfere with healthy pregnancies. If you believe you have fallen pregnant during chemotherapy, it is important to let the supportive care team know immediately.

The chemotherapy team should also be informed of any medications or natural remedies you are taking prior to treatment beginning. Additionally, always seek the advice of the supportive care team before taking any other medication or herbal remedies during treatment as the medicines may cause unpredictable side effects.

After your initial consultation, on your returning visit, you will be asked to bring your completed consent form and provide insurance documents if you are covered by private health insurance. For your treatment sessions, you can bring personal entertainment devices such as a book, mp3 or tablet device. Free-Wi-Fi is provided throughout the centres for use by patients and visitors.

During the treatment planning phase, you will be introduced to your consultant and your supportive care team. If you require any additional support regarding side effects, additional therapies and coping with your treatment, your supportive care team are available to help at any time. Any questions regarding your treatment plan should be raised with your oncologist.

If at any time before, during or after your treatment you would like to talk to someone, you can reach out to your supportive care team who can provide assistance or access to additional therapies where required.

There are no official waiting lists at Rutherford Cancer Centres, however, we need to collect:

  • Clinic letters
  • Histology reports
  • Scans
  • Scan reports

From the patient’s current health care provider before we can offer a consultation date, which can sometimes cause a delay. Once the required dataset has been collected, a consultation can usually be arranged for the following week or the week after, but this will depend on consultant availability. If a patient needs to be seen urgently, video consultation can be arranged with consultants from another centre.

Part of our holistic cancer care package is providing access to our dedicated supportive care who are available for you or your family to talk to at any time during or after your treatment. Your supportive care team can arrange additional supportive therapies during your treatment where necessary and offer expert guidance on your treatment and living a healthy lifestyle while receiving treatment.

 

Chemotherapy treatments are available at all of our centres, including Rutherford Cancer Centre South Wales, Rutherford Cancer Centre Thames Valley, Rutherford Cancer Centre North East and Rutherford Cancer Centre North West.

While Rutherford Cancer Centres do not provide or have access to housing facilities, we are in areas with ample accommodation available, including hotels and guest houses that can be booked by the patient where they would like to stay near the centre. All our cancer treatment methods are delivered as outpatient procedures and patients will not be expected to stay overnight in the centre.

No, patients looking to be treated at the Rutherford Cancer Centres should seek a referral from their consultant oncologist, if they are registered to work with us. A full list of consultants working with Rutherford Cancer Centres can be found here. More information on the referral process, including a snapshot of the typical patient pathway, can be found on our referral page.

If you have any questions regarding the referral process at the Rutherford Cancer Centres, please reach out to us on 0800 210 0402.

If you need to change the time or date of your appointment, please reach out to Rutherford Cancer Centres on 0800 210 0402 and we will try to arrange a more suitable time and day.

Patients can self-pay when covering their own treatment or, alternatively, payment can be made by insurance for privately insured patients or paid by the NHS for patients receiving treatment under the NHS.

Rutherford Cancer Centres is transforming cancer care by offering a truly unique and holistic approach to cancer treatment and supportive care. We utilise the latest in advanced technology for diagnostic imaging and treating cancer using systemic anti-cancer therapies (which includes chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapies, oncology nurse consultation, symptom control and blood tests), radiotherapy and, soon to be across all our centres, proton beam therapy. Rutherford Cancer Centres provide a personalised treatment pathway that has been carefully tailored to the individual patient and is aided by our supportive care team.

Our centres are designed to offer a comfortable and personalised experience for our patients. We have comfortable consultation rooms and treatment suites. Patients receiving chemotherapy treatments can opt for a private room or a shared space. During diagnostic appointments, our Philips Ambient Experience technology allows patients to choose the lighting and music during their appointment with additional options for visual distractions that can help relax and soothe the patient during their time in the centre.

Last updated: 1st July 2021

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