After ChemotherapyThis information is intended for the patients, friends and families of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
It has been created to answer many of the questions you may have about your treatment, how to prepare and what it will be like. It also contains suggestions about caring for yourself during treatment.
Once your infusion is completed you will be sent home. Your doctor will review what is normal to The Chemotherapy and You book is a valuable resource during the time after chemotherapy.
Refer to it for any questions and then contact your health care team if you don't find answers.
What can I expect?It is normal to be worried about the possible side effects of chemotherapy. These feelings can be overwhelming before chemotherapy begins. It is important to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Remember that not all patients experience side effects. In fact, many people have few or no side effects from their treatment. The severity and type of side effects that occur will depend on the treatment you are receiving.
Even though some side effects might be expected, you should always notify your doctor if any side effects occur.
Review the "Side Effects and Ways to Manage Them" section of Chemotherapy and You before you begin your treatment. You will find a detailed description of some of the common side effects of chemotherapy, how to prevent them as well as how to manage them. Your health care team will continue to provide information to you as you progress through your treatments. Remember that each chemotherapy treatment is different, and every patient will face different obstacles.
When should I contact my doctor?Notify your doctor for the following:
- Shaking chills or fever (a temperature of 101° F / 38.3° C).
Notify your doctor immediately if you develop a temperature, do not delay.
- Unusual cough, sore throat, lung congestion or shortness of breath
- Burning discomfort when you urinate
- Redness, pain or sores in your mouth
- Nausea, vomiting or inability to eat or drink for more than 24 hours
- Diarrhea (loose, watery stools) for more than 24 hours
- Constipation (no bowel movement in 2-3 days)
- Bleeding or unusual bruising
- Pain not controlled by your current medications
- Any new or unusual symptom that concerns you
For Pump Problems:
In general, you should contact HomeMed® Program for any problems with your pump, the chemotherapy itself or with your supplies. The HomeMed™ Number is 800-862-2731.
Precautions in the home after chemotherapy treatmentPrecautions need to be taken to protect you and your caregivers from contacting the chemotherapy medicine. Chemotherapy leaves the body through urine, vomit, blood and stool. Most chemotherapy medications will be out of your body in less than 48 hours.
We have outlined general precautions that you should follow during your infusion and for 2 days (48 hours) after your chemotherapy is done. In general, these precautions help you avoid all body fluids that may contain chemotherapy. Please talk to your health care team if you have questions about chemotherapy precautions.
Hazardous Waste Container
Place a container in your home to hold soiled gloves, dressings and items such as diapers that contain body wastes. The size of the container will vary by the amount of supplies you are using.
Hazardous waste containers should be made of heavy, puncture-proof plastic, have a lid and be marked "Hazardous Waste" for safety. Store it out of reach of children.
Your local health department or public safety department can describe local codes or ordinances regarding disposing of hazardous waste containers. Regulations prohibit the UM from accepting your containers for disposal.
Use gloves to handle laundry soiled with chemotherapy to keep it from contacting your skin. Wash any soiled linen or clothes right away in your washer with your regular soap. If you do not have a washer, place the soiled items in a plastic bag until they can be washed. Discard the gloves in the hazardous waste container.
Skin can become irritated from the chemotherapy. If you get chemotherapy or body wastes on your skin, wash the area with soap and water, then dry. Call your doctor if there is redness or irritation on the skin that lasts longer than one hour.
Small amounts of chemotherapy are present in urine, stool, and vomit. If you are exposed to any body wastes, wash the area with soap and water. Others in your household may use the same toilet as long as all waste is flushed down the toilet. If you use a commode, bedpan, urinal or a basin for vomiting, wear gloves when emptying the waste, rinse the container with water and clean it at least once a day with soap and water.
If you do not have control of your bladder or bowels, use a disposable, plastic-backed pad, diaper or sheet to absorb urine and stool. When it becomes soiled, change immediately and wash the skin with soap and water.
If you have an ostomy, wear gloves when emptying and changing the appliance. Diapers, pads and gloves soiled with chemotherapy wastes should be disposed of in the hazardous waste container.
If body wastes splash into your eyes, flush them immediately with water for 10 to 15 minutes and call your doctor.
Pregnant and/or Breast Feeding Caregivers
Pregnant or breast feeding women should wear gloves and gowns when caring for patients receiving chemotherapy. This includes changing chemotherapy bags, discarding wastes and cleaning body substances such as diapers and "baby spit".
Sexual Activity and Pregnancy
You should not have sexual activity for 48 hours after receiving chemotherapy because body fluids may contain chemotherapy. It is very important that you or your partner not get pregnant while having chemotherapy. You should use 2 forms of birth control to avoid pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 6 months after your treatment ends. This is very important for both men and women. Notify your physician if pregnancy occurs while you are receiving cancer treatment.
Hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to prevent infection. Wash your hands before and after the following:
- Preparing food
- Going to the bathroom
- Touching body fluids (yours and others) such as blowing your nose
- Working with plants or soil
- Using gloves for a task or procedure
They should NOT be used if your hands are visibly soiled or have body fluids (such as blood) on them, use liquid soap and water instead.
Off-brand hand gels can be less expensive.
Always check the label for the gel or lotion to contain either ethyl alcohol (ethanol), normal propyl alcohol (n-propyl) or isopropyl alcohol in concentrations between 60-90%.
Procedure for using antibacterial soap:
1. Wet your hands and wrists under running water.
2. Scrub vigorously with an antibacterial soap for 10 seconds. Work lather between fingers, under nails, over palms
and on backs of hands and wrists.
Tip: Sing one chorus of Happy Birthday to You while washing your hand usually takes about 10 seconds!
3. Rinse hands and wrists and dry with a clean paper towel.
4. Turn off faucet with a paper towel.
Procedure for using antiseptic lotions and gels:
1. Place lotion or gel on the palm of your hand.
2. Rub vigorously for 10 seconds. Work lotion or gel between fingers, under nails, over palms and on backs of hands and wrists.
3. Let your hands air dry.
Facing Forward After Chemotherapy TreatmentThe end of cancer treatment is often a time to rejoice. You are probably relieved to be finished with the demands of treatment and are ready to put the experience behind you. Yet at the same time, you may feel sad and worried. It's common to be concerned about whether the cancer will come back and what you should do after treatment.
When treatment ends, you may expect life to return to the way it was before you were diagnosed with cancer. But it can take time to recover. You may have permanent scars on your body, or you may not be able to do some things you once did easily. Or you may even have emotional scars from going through so much. You may find that others think of you differently now - or you may view yourself in a different way.
One of the hardest things after treatment is not knowing what happens next. Many cancer survivors feel that they had lots of information and support during their illness, once treatment stopped, they enter a whole new world - one filled with new questions.
There are a number of resources available to help you once you complete your chemotherapy treatment including:
The Facing Forward Booklet
This is written by the National Cancer Institute and is available to all patients at the Cancer Center. If you don't receive one after your infusion concludes, contact or visit the Patient Education Resource Center on Level B1 of the Cancer Center at 734-647-8626.
Patient Education Resource Center
The Patient Education Resource Center (or PERC) offers many resources on issues after chemotherapy. The PERC is located on level B1 of the Cancer Center and can be reached at 734-647-8626. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9am until 4pm.