Treatment process

Cancer drugs are often given in a series of cycles. Each cycle includes the treatment day(s) and some recovery days after treatment. The recovery days allow your body time to recover from side effects before your next cycle. Your cancer care team will talk with you in detail about your own treatment plan.

Where you receive your cancer drugs will again depend on the type of drugs being given and your type of cancer. 

Before treatment

If you get your cancer drugs by intravenous (IV), a special long-term IV may be inserted. The most common long-term IVs are peripherally inserted central catheters (PICCs) or port-a-caths (PORTs). Long-term IVs are inserted so that you are not repeatedly poked by a needle to start a new IV.

Treatment day

Before the first day of each treatment session you will likely have blood tests done. The blood tests make sure your body is healthy enough to receive treatment. Your cancer care team will examine you, look at your blood test results and decide whether treatment can begin. This may also  happen a day or two before treatment. You will be told if your treatment needs to be delayed or the drug dose needs to be reduced.

Treatment day checklist:

  • Wear comfortable clothes with sleeves that can be rolled up.
  • Bring any medications you take during the day with you, like pain medicine, insulin or inhalers.
  • Bring your Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) card, private drug insurance card and money to pay for possible prescriptions.
  • Eat a light meal. Bring a snack or lunch, or money to purchase food if needed.
  • Bring earphones to connect to the personal televisions available.
  • Bring a family member or friend (preferably over the age of 16 for safety reasons) for support and to help collect information.
  • For your first treatment, be prepared to possibly spend the day at the Cancer Centre. Some things that can affect the length of your visit are wait times and how you tolerate your treatment. Try not to book other appointments on this day. Make arrangements for things like family or work obligations.

During your treatment

You will likely get some medication before treatment to prevent possible side effects like nausea or an allergic reaction. The nurse will start an IV in your arm and may also give you some other fluids through the IV.

Once your cancer drugs are prepared by the pharmacy, a nurse will start giving your drugs through your IV. You will get your drugs while sitting in a comfortable chair or lying on a stretcher. While you get treatment, the nurse and pharmacist will talk with you about your cancer drugs. They will tell you about managing possible side effects and answer any questions you may have.

The nurse will check on you often to make sure you are not having any reactions from the cancer drugs. This may include taking your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and oxygen levels) regularly. Most patients do not feel pain or anything unusual while they get their cancer drugs. If you begin to feel uncomfortable, tell your nurse immediately.

After your treatment

Your nurse will remove the IV in your arm. If you have a special long-term IV, the nurse will clean out the device.

You will likely get a prescription for medications to help with side effects. Make sure you understand the instructions for taking these medications to help your side effects.

Please watch the video below for more information on the chemotherapy treatment experience. In this video we will discuss the chemotherapy treatment cycle, including how you can prepare and what you can expect while you are receiving care. By the end of this video you should be able to:

• Describe the purpose of a clinic and treatment visits
• Describe what will happen and how to prepare when attending a clinic and treatment visit
• Describe how to call for help if you experience a change in your condition or if you have questions or concerns