VISITING HOSPITAL

Hospital visitors must wear a medical paper face mask. Fabric face coverings are not acceptable. Expand this message for more detailed information about hospital visiting guidelines.

Last updated:
16 September 2022

 

Mask exemptions accepted for people seeking treatment
Any member of the public with a mask exemption is welcome in all our facilities when attending to receive health care and *treatment. Please show your mask exemption card and appointment letter to staff at the entrance.

*Treatment includes: coming into the Emergency Department, outpatient appointments,  surgery or a procedure.

For visitors to all facilities effective from Friday 16 September 2022

Some visitor restrictions for all Te Whatu Ora Waitaha Canterbury hospitals and health facilities remain in place, but we have relaxed others.

There is still a heightened risk to vulnerable people in hospital and so people must continue to wear a mask when visiting any of our facilities and follow other advice designed to keep patients, staff and  visitors safe.

Kia whakahaumaru te whānau, me ngā iwi katoa – this is to keep everybody safe:

  • Visitors or support people must not visit our facilities if they are unwell. Do not visit if you have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and haven’t completed your isolation period.
  • Patients may have more than one visitor, except in some situations such as multi-bed rooms where it can cause overcrowding.
  • Surgical/medical masks must be worn at all sites. Masks will be provided if you don’t have one.
  • For Specialist Mental Health Services everyone is strongly encouraged to wear a surgical mask in all inpatient areas and areas where consumers are receiving care (i.e. community appointments, home-visits, transporting people). Discretion may be applied in cases where masks impair your ability to communicate effectively.
  • Visitors must not eat or drink in multibed rooms because of the increased risk when multiple people remove their mask in the same space.
  • Hand sanitiser is available and must be used.

Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as our staff work hard to protect and care for some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Visiting patients with COVID-19

  • People can visit patients who have COVID-19 but they must wear an N95 mask – this will be provided if you don’t have one.
  • Other methods of communication will be facilitated e.g. phone, Facetime, Zoom, WhatsApp etc where visits aren’t possible.

All of our Hospitals

Visiting hours for our hospitals have returned to pre COVID-19 hours with the exception of Christchurch Women’s Hospital.

All visitors must wear a medical mask.

Parents/caregivers are able to be with their child in hospital and visitors are now allowed, except for the Children’s Haematology and Oncology Day stay where just one parent/caregiver is able to attend their appointment with their child. Exceptions by special arrangement only.

Patients and visitors should also read the additional more detailed visiting guidelines for each specific hospital.

More COVID-19 information

Medical Oncology

The Canterbury Regional Cancer & Haematology Service (CRCHS) Medical Oncology Department is located at Christchurch Hospital on the ground floor of the Oncology building.

It is one of two tertiary centres delivering medical oncology and chemotherapy treatment in the South Island. There are a number of satellite centres around the CRCHS coverage area that also deliver chemotherapy. Medical oncologists visit these centres for patient clinics.

The Oncology Department at Christchurch Hospital has a dedicated oncology day ward which delivers chemotherapy treatment. The Medical Oncology service sees approximately 7000 patients per year and an average of 25 - 30 chemotherapy treatments are delivered Monday to Friday.

Oncology Treatment Booklet

The purpose of Oncology Treatment Booklet is to introduce patients to your treatment, as well as describe the process you will most likely follow during your visits to the Oncology Department.

Oncology Treatment Booklet (PDF, 1.3MB)

Patient education video

This video had been developed to provide information about what to expect when commencing drug therapy to treat cancer. This may include chemotherapy (also known as chemo), targeted therapy or immunotherapy. It will be used in conjunction with written and verbal information provided by the service who will be managing the care and treatment.

If you are using an older browser and cannot see the video above, it can be viewed on www.vimeo.com instead.

Transcript

[Video length: 12:02 minutes]

[Music plays.]

[Title: Welcome to the Canterbury Regional Cancer and Haematology Service]

[Charlotte Tangney, Clinical Nurse Specialist] Hello, my name is Charlotte and I would like to welcome you to the Canterbury Regional Cancer and Haematology Service.

I am one of the team of nurses that you may meet while receiving treatment.

By now, you may have spoken to one of our medical oncologists or nurse practitioners about getting treatment for your cancer.

The details of your treatment may vary depending on the type of cancer you have and what your medical oncologist or nurse practitioner has prescribed.

We hope to answer any concerns you may have and guide you through the process of receiving treatment in one of our centres.

[Title: What to Expect]

[Jenny McLachlan, Medical Oncologist] My name is Jenny McLachlan. I’m a medical oncologist at Christchurch Hospital. This video is to show you what to expect during your cancer treatment most patients are a little frightened when they hear they need chemotherapy and this is entirely natural as you probably don’t know what to expect.

During this video we’ll take patients through this process and show you what it involves when you come for your cancer treatment.

The treatment we prescribed could be traditional chemotherapy or one of the newer treatments such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy.

The type of treatment will have been discussed with you at your Clinic appointment and you will have been given some written information to take home and read through and discuss with your family or support person. It also may involve a combination of these treatments.

The number of times you have treatments will depend on the drugs and the regimen that you are having you may come in daily fortnightly three weekly or monthly.

You may have your treatment as an outpatient or you may be admitted to our oncology ward for your treatment.

Treatment may involve taking tablets at home having injections under the skin or having treatment via a vein. It may include a combination of these treatments.

You may also have radiotherapy at the same time as your chemotherapy. You’ll get further information from the radiation oncology team about this.

[Title: How Drug Therapy Effects Cancer Cells]

[Sarah Ellery, Nurse Practitioner] Cancer cells are abnormal cells in the body that have had their genetic makeup damaged and they behave and an abnormal fashion by forming into masses which we call tumours. And those tumours are capable of moving around the body to different parts.

We use chemotherapy treatment to help manage cancer cells and traditional chemotherapy treatment circulates through the body with the aim of damaging cancer cells so that they cannot keep living.

During that process of chemotherapy traveling around the body chemotherapy also will temporarily damage normal cells and those normal cells have the ability to repair themselves.

But the damage to those normal cells temporarily is what causes side effects.

There are other types of drug therapy we use in cancer and are called targeted therapies or immunotherapies. Now often used in combination with the traditional chemotherapy agents targeted agents are more specifically designed to target particular parts of cancer cells or the pathways that they use and they work to block those processes in some way to halt cancer growth.

Immunotherapies are also newer drug therapies, which work by activating the body’s own immune system to fight against the cancer.

When you’re going to start treatment, we often need some additional tests and investigations done on what you may have had previously specifically around monitoring you during treatment.

Those things might include such things as blood tests heart tracings or scans.

Breathing tests hearing tests, but the team will let you know which ones are needed for you before you start treatment.

Drug treatments are an important part of treating cancer. During that treatment our staff are specifically trained to be handling drugs that would be given to you and manage side effects they’re here to educate and support you through the treatment process.

We would expect that at any time that you have a concern or an issue or you’re feeling unwell that you would be contacting us immediately.

[Title: Education on Treatment]

[Charlotte Tangney, Clinical Nurse Specialist] Once you’ve made a decision about having treatment, you’ll receive your next appointments.

You will see a nurse about education for your treatment and you’ll also receive some additional appointments for your treatment and clinic follow-ups with the medical oncologist or a nurse practitioner.

Let’s take a look at a patient, following them through their treatment. When you arrive at your treatment centre. Please check in at reception. You’ll be asked to take a seat in the waiting area. A nurse will come and greet you.

Your first appointment with our team will be an education session. We will talk about what to expect when you have your treatment.

If there are any special considerations that we need to know about please tell us.

The nurse will talk about specific information for your treatment schedule and the drugs you will be having they will also talk about the blood test you need to have each time you have a cycle of treatment.

They’ll also spend time going over the tablets you need to take prior to your treatment to reduce any side effects that you might get. Please fill the prescription that the medical oncologist or nurse practitioner gave you and bring the medications along to this appointment.

The nurse will also look at the veins in your arms as many treatments are given through an IV line.

We may have to organize to have a short-term device placed in your upper arm or in your chest. There is more information about these in the treatment booklet.

Oncology treatments can cause a range of side effects from mild through to life threatening if they’re not managed to effectively.

Your nurse will talk about managing these and give you any further information to assist you.

You’ll also be given a card that has our contact details on it so you can contact us 24 hours 7 days a week.

If you are unwell, we want you to check your temperature with a thermometer before calling us.

The card tells you what signs and symptoms we would want you to call us about.

We will guide you on what to do next and where you should go for assessment.

If all your questions have been answered. We will ask you to sign the consent form that your medical oncologist or nurse practitioner has started.

We’ll check that you know when your start date is and take you on a tour of the treatment area.

We may also need to double check your height and weight which helps us to work out the correct dose of the drug that you’ll be given.

[Title: First Day of Treatment]

[Charlotte Tangney, Clinical Nurse Specialist] You’re now ready for your first day of treatment, take your medications before your treatment following the instructions you have been given.

If your treatment is in tablet form, you can start this at home and continue as instructed.

If you’re having your treatment in a clinic or day ward, you will need to check in to reception when you arrive. We encourage you to bring a member of your family or a friend along. Your nurse will collect you and your support person from the waiting room.

Before you arrive, the nurse checks that everything is ready for you to have your treatment.

They’ll ask you if you have taken your tablets prior to coming in. We’ll ask you about side effects you may have. We check these each time you come for treatment.

We will put in an IV line so that we can give you your treatment. They may be administered from a syringe into a side port on the IV line or they may be dripped or pumped from a bag that is attached to the IV line.

The person who is sitting next to you may be having the treatment in a different way to you.

You’ll see that we are wearing protective equipment such as a gown and gloves.

Each regime of treatment can vary in length of administration. This would have been discussed with you.

Your treatment is checked by two nurses. They will ask you for your full name and date of birth to confirm your identity. Once your treatment has finished you can go home.

Take your medications that you have been given to manage any side effects.

[Title: Side Effects]

[Ruth Gerring, Clinical Nurse Specialist] The treatments are designed to treat your cancer, but they also affect the normal body cells as well. This is why people experience side effects.

Keeping well and managing the side effects during your treatment is important your oncology team will help you to do this as you go through your treatment.

There are a number of potential side effects, which may include lowered immune system or infection chest pain.

Nausea and vomiting, a sore or dry mouth, constipation or diarrhoea.

Bleeding, temporary hair loss, sensory changes, fatigue, skin rashes, and emotional changes.

The side effects will be discussed in the treatment book that you have been given not everyone gets side effects.

Some people get minimal or no side effects. They can range from minor to moderate through to life-threatening if ignored.

The service is available 24 hours a day for you to call if you have any concerns regarding your side effects.

You have been given a card with our contact details. We ask you to take your temperature and ring with any side effects that you have. You’ll be asked a number of questions about these side effects and given instructions about what to do.

The side effects we would want you to call us about you begin to feel unwell or unexpectedly unwell.

You start to feel muddled or confused.

Your temperature is 38 degrees or more.

Your temperature is less than 35.5 degrees.

You have uncontrolled shaking or shivering.

You have large or frequent loose bowel motions.

You have any chest pain.

You’re at risk of becoming seriously unwell, if you ignore these side effects when you call us, we will ask you how you are feeling.

We will give you instructions to manage at home or advise you to come into our department or go to the emergency department to be seen you may or may not need to be admitted to hospital.

[Jenny McLachlan, Medical Oncologist] Once you have started your treatment, we will assess your regularly at an outpatient clinic appointment. This is to see how you’re managing any side effects from the treatment.

 At intervals during your treatment, we may also organise a scan to see if the treatment is being effective.

When you finished your course of treatment, you may be given an appointment to see your medical oncologist or nurse practitioner. They will discuss your recovery and also discuss how you’ve responded to treatment and discuss follow-up plans.

You may be discharged back to your surgical team or GP for ongoing care.

[Title: Support Services]

[Charlotte Tangney, Clinical Nurse Specialist] There are many support services available to help you through your cancer journey. There is more information in the treatment booklet, or talk to your medical oncologist nurse practitioner or nurse.

We hope we’ve been able to answer some of your concerns that you may have had.

We understand this is a whole new experience for you and your family.

So it’s important to tell us any concerns you may have.

We are here to help support guide and care for you while receiving treatment. Thank you for your time.

[Credits: Special thanks to Oncology Trust Fund, Jean Proctor Estate]

Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer using drugs that kill rapidly growing cells. Read the Cancer Society booklet about Chemotherapy for more information.

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy works be entering the blood stream which means the drugs can reach most places in your body attack and kill cancer cells as they divide to form new cells.

How is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy is usually given on a regular basis as an outpatient although sometimes you may need to be admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. Depending on the chemotherapy treatment regimen required, treatment frequency may be weekly to four weekly. Most treatment may range from 4 to 6 months in duration.

Chemotherapy is usually given by injection or infusion but sometimes is given as tablets or capsules.

Sometimes chemotherapy and radiation therapy are given at the same time to make the treatment more effective.​​

Biological therapies try to attack particular parts of the cancer cell either indirectly by the immune system or by attacking the cancer cells directly.
Treatment may be given by injection, infusion or as tablets.

Biological therapies may be given on their own or in combination with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Monoclonal antibodies, angiogenesis inhibitors and cell growth inhibitors are all examples of biological therapies.

How do Biotherapy drugs work?

Instead of working systemically to effect cancer and healthy cells as traditional chemotherapy does, they work by targeting very particular parts of cancer cells or pathways involved in cancer growth. The drug binds to the cancer cell or pathway and prevents the process continuing.

This also means the side effects experienced can be different to chemotherapy as the traditional systemic effects such as lowering of the immune system do not occur because the drug has targeted a very specific area.​

Preparing for your appointments

View more information about preparing for your visit to the Canterbury Regional Cancer & Haematology Service.

You may attend a separate chemotherapy education session with a nurse before your treatment starts. At this session the nurse will cover the type of chemotherapy regimen you will receive, including the drugs and their potential side effects, how long it takes to deliver, how many cycles you will have and more.

You will have received a Patient Information Folder on your first clinic visit. The folder includes information about your treatment and is useful to bring along to each appointment. If you have not received a folder, ask the nurse for one at this appointment.

We are always happy to explain what the treatment involves and answer any questions you have at any stage of your treatment.
We can also refer you to a number of support services to help you throughout your treatment.

Arriving for treatment

It's a good idea to allow plenty of time, especially if you have travelled by car, as parking near the hospital can be difficult. See our Location tab for further information about parking.

On your arrival please let the receptionist on the ground floor of the Oncology Department know that you are here. The receptionist will ask you to take a seat in the waiting area.

When the nursing team are ready to treat you a member of the team will locate you and escort you to the Oncology Day Ward where your treatment will begin.
It is normal to feel nervous or apprehensive about your first day of treatment but most people find the treatment a lot easier than they imagined. However if you do feel anxious the team will be more than willing to discuss any concerns you have.

Usually treatment is given Monday to Friday but some patients will be asked to attend on weekends or public holidays.

Before the treatment begins

The nurse will begin by introducing themselves and answering any questions you may have. If you are returning for treatment they will want to know what side effects you have had between your last treatment and the current one.

Your arm will be warmed with a heat bag or in a sink of water. This plumps up your veins for the cannula (small plastic tube) to be inserted. The cannula is used to deliver the drugs directly into your vein. A small number of people may have a central venous access device (CVAD) in place. This is a longer term option and stays in place 24 hours a day for the duration of your treatment period. It is a necessity for some of the chemotherapy drugs we administer.

Once your cannula is placed the nurse will check the patency of it by flushing intravenous fluids through it and checking for blood return from the cannula (or CVAD).

Two nurses will undertake a thorough check of all the drugs you are to receive and will then check your identity. Please don't be upset if we check your identity repeatedly. It may be done several times on each visit by asking for your full name and birth date. This is necessary to maintain your safety and ensure you are receiving the drugs that are meant for you.

Who gives the treatment?

There are a number of nurses working in this team who have all received additional training to handle and administer chemotherapy drugs. You may have different nurses on each occasion you come for treatment.

Between each treatment visit

Between each cycle of chemotherapy you will receive an appointment to be seen in an outpatient clinic. In these clinics you will be reviewed for any side effects of the treatment by a member of your treatment team which may be either a doctor or nurse. Staff will let you know if a blood test is required before this appointment.

When you have completed treatment

When chemotherapy has finished you will have an outpatient clinic visit to discuss your future follow up requirements. For some people follow up with the Oncology Department will continue but for others you may be discharged from our care back to your surgeon or GP for continued care. You should receive the sheet 'Finishing your chemotherapy treatment' at this clinic visit or from the nurse on your final chemotherapy visit.​

Experiencing side effects

The side effects you may experience from your chemotherapy treatment will depend on many factors, such as the drug or combination of drugs, the dose you have been given and how you as an individual tolerate the treatment.
It is important to remember that everyone is different so possible side effects, including their severity, will vary from person to person even though the treatment regimen may be the same.

Effects of chemotherapy on healthy cells

As chemotherapy is a systemic treatment side effects are not limited to the site of your cancer. Other healthy cells that are dividing can be damaged by chemotherapy. Most commonly the cells that divide more often (such as the cells in hair follicles that produce new hairs, or cells in the lining of your stomach) tend to be affected more than cells that divide less frequently. Healthy cells damaged by chemotherapy, however, are able to recover better than cancer cells so most side effects are for a short time afterward.

Side effects from Biotherapy

The side effects from biotherapy or targeted agents can be different to traditional chemotherapy as the drug targets a very particular part of a cell or pathway.

Concerns you may have

Your treatment team will provide you with written information on each drug you will receive and the potential side effects that may be experienced with each one.

If you are concerned about any of the side effects you are experiencing you should contact us (24 hours) on: 03 364 0020 and speak with a nurse.

The Cancer Society Website has information about possible side effects which may be of use to you.

Throughout your chemotherapy treatment you may meet many different health professionals and support staff. Some of these people are listed below along with how they can help and support you throughout your treatment.

Medical Oncologist

Your Medical Oncologist is the doctor in charge of your chemotherapy treatment. They have received specialist training in the use of chemotherapy and biotherapy drugs to help treat cancer. They will meet you before your treatment starts and during the course of the treatment to see how you are managing.

Registrar

These are qualified doctors who are in training. They work alongside the Medical Oncologist in charge of your care. You may see a Registrar in clinic before, during and after your treatment or if you become unwell.

Charge Nurse Managers

Charge Nurse Managers are responsible for the running of the Oncology Day Ward, outpatient clinics, Medical Day Unit and the Inpatient Ward . You may meet them if you are admitted either for or during your chemotherapy.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

The Clinical Nurse Specialist is a specialist nurse with experience and advanced knowledge of chemotherapy and cancer. They may also be directly involved in your care by seeing you in clinic, the ward or talking by telephone.

Clinical Nurse Specialists also provide leadership and mentorship to the nursing staff as well as being involved in education, quality and research activities.

Registered / Enrolled Nurses

Registered nurses staff the Inpatient Ward and the Oncology Day Ward, they will give you the chemotherapy as well as providing you with a chemotherapy education session to tell you all about the treatment and side effects. These nurses have received specialist training in the delivery of chemotherapy drugs.

Enrolled nurses will greet you when you come to clinic or may care for you on the ward.

Hospital Aides

Hospital Aides assist nurses in caring for patients and also help to keep the clinical areas tidy and well stocked.

Ward Clerk

The Ward Clerk deals with enquiries concerning patients as well as performing administrative and clerical tasks.

Cleaning staff

Our cleaners have a vital role because they look after the cleanliness of the service areas.​

Also view Allied Health for Allied Health staff information.

Frequently asked questions

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. Phone (03) 364 0020 then follow the prompts.

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.

Diet

You do not need to take any special dietary precautions, however you should follow good hand hygiene and food hygiene practices.

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.

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.

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'.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.​

Page last updated: 9 December 2022

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