Patients may take chemotherapy at home, in the doctor's office, or as an inpatient or outpatient at the hospital. Most patients stay in the hospital when first beginning chemotherapy, so their doctor can check for any side effects and change the dose if needed. A very important part of chemotherapy is determining the appropriate dose. To do this, the doctor must consider the person's size as well as any toxic side effects the drug may have.
How often and how long chemotherapy is given depends on the type of cancer, how patients respond to the drugs, patients' health and ability to tolerate the drugs, and on the types of drugs given. Chemotherapy administration may take only a few minutes or may last as long as several hours. Chemotherapy may be given daily, weekly, or monthly. A rest period may follow a course of treatment before the next course begins. In combination chemotherapy, more than one drug may be given at a time, or they may be given alternately, one following the other.
There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs. Oncologists, doctors who specialize in treating cancer, determine which drugs are best suited for each patient. This decision is based on the type of cancer, the patient's age and health, and other drugs the patient is taking. Some patients should not be treated with certain chemotherapy drugs. Age and other conditions may affect the drugs with which a person may be treated. Heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes are conditions that may limit the choice of treatment drugs. Pregnancy is another precaution because of the anticancer drug's impact on fetal development.
Toni Rizzo, Rhonda Cloos R.N., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,