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Chemotherapy is medicine that is used to treat cancer and some blood disorders. It selectively kills harmful cells in the body that are rapidly dividing. There are many different types of chemotherapy. The type of chemotherapy that your child’s oncologist recommends will be based on his or her specific type of cancer or blood disorder.
The duration of your child’s chemotherapy will vary depending on his or her condition. Most types of chemotherapy are administered on an outpatient basis, but some treatments do require a hospital stay of several days or even weeks. Outpatient chemotherapy treatments can last from an hour and a half to an entire day. A regimen could consist of chemotherapy for five days straight, followed by two weeks off and then another five days of chemotherapy. Alternatively, your child may receive chemotherapy once a week for six weeks straight.
Chemotherapy is administered in three main ways: intravenously (into the vein), intramuscularly (into the muscle) or orally (by mouth). How your child’s chemotherapy is delivered will depend on the specific drug that the oncologist has recommended.
When you arrive for a chemotherapy treatment at Riley at IU Health, please check in at the desk. Your child will have his or her blood drawn and vitals taken to ensure the white blood cell count, platelet count and hemoglobin count are sufficient for treatment that day. Oftentimes, your child will visit with his or her oncologist prior to receiving chemotherapy. The doctor will review your child's blood work and vital signs and conduct a physical exam to determine if it is OK for your child to receive treatment that day.
If it is all right to proceed with treatment, you and your child will go to the Infusion Area while the pharmacy mixes your child's specific chemotherapy treatment for that day. Treatment generally begins within one to two hours after you arrive at the hospital.
Please be aware:
While receiving chemotherapy, patients may experience some side effects. Commonly, patients assume that they will become very sick and lose all of their hair, though this is not always true. Decades ago, these side effects were common. Today, chemotherapy is an entirely different experience.
Some side effects do include nausea or vomiting, hair loss, mouth sores, diarrhea, rashes or fatigue. Nearly 80 percent of patients are able to continue living their life normally during their chemotherapy treatment, including going to school full time. Patients are given anti-nausea medication if they start to feel sick, but patients do not experience these side effects with every treatment type.