Chemotherapy refers to the process of using drugs/medication to try to kill cancer cells. A medical oncologist will be in charge of your care but will collaborate with other specialists in case your treatment plan involves radiation or surgery. The purpose of chemotherapy can be to shrink the growing mass before surgery or to prevent further growth. Chemotherapy is given into a vein or taken by mouth to treat cancer. You may also hear the term “systemic treatment” which means that the drugs that enter your bloodstream reach all areas of the body. Depending on the type and stage of sarcoma, chemotherapy may be given as the main treatment or as an adjuvant (addition) to radiation and/or surgery. Different types of sarcoma respond better to chemo than others and also respond to different types of chemo. Chemotherapy for soft tissue sarcoma often uses a combination of several anti-cancer drugs.
Many chemotherapy treatment plans require you to visit the hospital weekly. Depending on your treatment plan you may receive care as an inpatient or as a day patient. Successful completion of one round of chemotherapy is referred to as a “cycle”. Your chemotherapy visits may be at either Princess Margaret Cancer Centre on the 4th Floor, Systemic Therapy Unit or Mount Sinai Hospital on the 6th Floor, Cancer Care Centre. To get registered at your appointments you will need to bring your OHIP card. Given that chemotherapy does take a while, bring a book, laptop, or something that can help you pass the time until your visit is done. We understand the anxiety that can be associated with chemotherapy with many worries surrounding the possible side effects and risks. Your care team is here to help you, so feel free to ask them questions or concerns. Unsure of where to start, or what to ask? Take a look at our list below:
- What are the names of the drugs given to me?
- How will chemotherapy be given to me?
- How long is my chemotherapy for? How many cycles?
- What are possible side effects? When would they start? How long do they usually last? What can be done to treat side effects?
- Which side effects should I report right away? Who do I call?
- Is a special diet needed?
- Are there special things that I should or should not do?
- When will we know the results of chemotherapy?
- Will I be able to drive myself to and from treatment appointments or should someone drive me?
For a more detailed list visit: How Chemotherapy Therapy Is Used to Treat Cancer by American Cancer Society