FAQs

​Calling us

You should not hesitate to call us if you feel unwell in any way while on chemotherapy. Our telephone is answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by the nursing team and they are happy to take your call. Dial (03) 364 0020 then follow the prompts.

Do I need to take any special precautions while I am having chemotherapy?

There are a few things to keep in mind while you are receiving chemotherapy:

  • Lowered Immune System

    Firstly your immune system may be lower than normal which increases the risk of getting unwell while you are on chemotherapy treatment. Be aware of being in close contact with people while they are unwell. Try to avoid being too close (within 1 metre) or ask to delay contact with family/friends until they have been free of symptoms for 48 hours.

  • Body fluids/waste

    Once the chemotherapy enters your system it circulates and will be eliminated through your urine, bowel motion, sweat and vomit. The chemotherapy drugs you are receiving have the potential to be hazardous to health. Exposure to other people of the drugs or your body waste should be kept to a minimum. Handling of body fluids is detailed on our  Receiving Chemotherapy  hand-out.

  • Sex

    There is no clear indication on whether body fluids such as saliva, semen or vaginal fluid would contain any chemotherapy drugs in large enough quantity to be hazardous to another person. It is important while you are receiving chemotherapy to maintain your quality of life so we do not recommend that you stop participating in sexual intimacy. Some people may prefer to use barrier protection (condoms) while on treatment. You should discuss this with your treatment team if you have any questions or concerns.

  • Please read our hand-out Receiving Chemotherapy

Can I go to work while having chemotherapy?

In most cases, yes, you can work while having chemotherapy treatment. We would encourage you to maintain as normal a life style as possible while undergoing treatment. The main side effect which impacts on a person's ability to maintain this life style is fatigue. It is variable how affected people are by treatment and side effects.

Can I exercise while having chemotherapy?

In most cases, yes, we would encourage you to maintain your lifestyle as much as possible. It is variable how affected people are by treatment and side effects.

Read the Cancer Society brochure on 'Being active when you have cancer'.

Will I lose my hair while having chemotherapy?

Only a few of the drugs we use cause hair to thin or fall out completely. Your doctor or nurse will let you know if you are receiving any of these drugs and the chances of hair loss for you. We can arrange a subsidy for a wig for you and the Cancer Society can also help with turbans.

Will I have nausea or vomiting while having chemotherapy?

Some chemotherapy drugs cause more nausea and/or vomiting than others. We have a range of anti-nausea tablets associated with each chemotherapy regimen we give to help prevent this occurring. Anti-nausea tablets will be prescribed for you and you should take them as we instruct you to. We always aim to prevent any nausea or vomiting by taking the tablets before this occurs. If you are taking them as instructed but still have nausea and/or vomiting you should telephone us as we have other anti-nausea drug options we can try.

Will chemotherapy affect my fertility?

Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to affect fertility than others. Your treatment team will discuss this with you before commencing any treatment. If your fertility will be affected the options to preserve fertility will be discussed with you before starting any treatment. 
It is recommended that you do not attempt to conceive a child while you are on treatment. Please discuss the need for contraception to prevent this with your doctor or nurse. Your treatment team can also tell you how long you should wait after you have finished treatment before attempting to conceive a child.

How is my treatment given?

The nurse administering the drugs will wear a gown and gloves for their protection. Chemotherapy drugs are known hazardous agents and we want to minimise exposure to other people.

The nurses will have already explained other precautions you may need to take with any contaminated clothing and your body fluids at home. You will receive the booklet Receiving Chemotherapy which will outline this information as well.

The drugs will be administered as on the prescription. The amount of time it takes varies from one regimen to another and the nurse will have explained your regimen in the chemotherapy education session. The infusion line is flushed between each different drug. When complete the cannula is removed and you may go home.

Will I feel unwell during chemotherapy treatment?

You should experience no adverse effects with the chemotherapy running. If you do start to feel unwell or experience pain at the infusion site you should get the attention of a nurse immediately.

Will I have to stay in hospital?

The majority of people having chemotherapy receive it as an outpatient in the Oncology Day Ward and go home the same day. A few people may need to stay in hospital for their treatment. Your doctor will indicate if this is necessary before you commence any treatment. If you do have to stay in hospital you will be in the Oncology Ward.

Can I drive after chemotherapy?

On the first treatment we recommend you bring a family member or friend with you who can drive you home. In most circumstances you will be able to drive home after treatment. You can also discuss this with the nurses.

How often will I see a doctor?

Between each cycle of chemotherapy you will see the doctor in clinic. Cycles can vary in length between 2-4 weeks. Your doctor or a nurse will explain what your particular cycle length is with you. 

This visit is to discuss how you tolerated the last cycle of treatment. The doctor will want to know what side effects you experienced and will discuss how best to manage these.

This is also the time when the doctor can write a prescription for any medications you require to support you during chemotherapy treatment i.e. anti-nausea medications.

Any other medications you take that are related to other conditions should continue to be prescribed by your GP. We like to keep them fully involved and informed about your care.

How often do I have a Blood Test?

You should have a blood test within 48 hours of each chemotherapy treatment to ensure your blood count has or is recovering sufficiently to go ahead with the next planned treatment.

Can I take supplements or use complementary or alternative therapy while I am having chemotherapy?

Complementary treatment is a term which is used to refer to a wide range of health care practices and products which are used alongside (or complementary to) mainstream conventional treatments. On the other hand alternative treatment is a term which refers to health care practices and products which are used instead of (or as an alternative to) mainstream conventional medicine.

Such treatments will range from being entirely safe to very dangerous, from possibly helpful to definitely unhelpful. Most complementary treatments will fit into the category of safe but of unknown efficacy. Once it has been demonstrated that a therapy is effective and safe then it is no longer complementary therapy, it becomes mainstream treatment.

When making decisions about any of these types of therapies, it is important to be fully informed and to seek the advice of your doctor. Your doctor will have a good idea which of these treatments are safe and possibly helpful and will also know which of these treatments are ineffective or dangerous. 
If you are already taking complementary medicines it is important to tell your medical team. This is because your immune response may be suppressed due to treatment making some complimentary medicines unsafe to take such as raw or powdered products or they may interfere with how your treatment works. Other examples of complementary therapies are relaxation therapy, yoga, meditation, aroma therapy, reiki, music therapy, tai chi and massage therapy. These can help deal with the emotional and physical impact of the disease and treatment side effects.

For further information please discuss with either the nurses or your medical team, read the information available from the Cancer Society or visit the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre

What will I feel during chemotherapy treatment?

While your treatment is running you shouldn't feel any different. It is not normal to have any discomfort in your arm with the drugs infusing so if you experience this you should alert the nursing staff immediately. In rare cases the drug can inadvertently go into the tissue which would cause discomfort, this is called extravasation and requires urgent action to prevent damage to the tissue. It is also rare for people to experience an allergic reaction to chemotherapy drugs however there are some drugs which are more likely to cause a reaction. Additional medication is given before the administration of these drugs and the medical and nursing staff will talk with you about the need for these before treatment begins. Again if you feel anything abnormal while having treatment you should alert the nursing staff immediately. The drugs need to be stopped immediately for the reaction to settle.​

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Page last reviewed: 15 April 2015
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