Chemotherapy FAQ


Will I lose my hair?
Will I get nauseated?
Will chemotherapy suppress my “immunity”?
How long does the chemotherapy stay in my body?
Where do chemotherapy drugs come from?
Who gives me my chemotherapy?
What is a portacath?
Where do I go to get my chemotherapy?
How is the chemotherapy administered to me?

Will I lose my hair?
Several, but not all, chemotherapy drugs cause temporary hair loss. These drugs include Taxol, Taxotere, Topotecan, Etoposide, Cytoxan, and Ifosfamide. You will notice hair loss within 10-14 days after your first treatment. Hair grows back after completion of therapy.If you do lose your hair it is wise to purchase turbans, scarves and hats in addition to a wig since most women find wigs to be a little uncomfortable. We can help you obtain a free wig from the American Cancer Society wig bank. Many insurance plans will also cover the cost of a wig.Hot tip #1 – The short sleeve of a mans T-shirt can be cut off and worn on the head under turbans and scarves to provide warmth and prevent slippage.

Hot tip #2 – Many wig shops and wig banks have strips of bangs to wear under your hats, scarves and turbans to give the illusion of hair.

Hot tip #3 – Eyebrows are very difficult to pencil in when you do not have a line to follow. Instead of using an eyebrow pencil, try using a medium brown eyeshadow (not sparkly). It gives a softer look and is easier to apply. [back to top]

Will I get nauseated?
Some chemotherapy drugs can cause nausea. These drugs include Cisplatinum, Carboplatinum and Adriamycin. The nausea produced by these medications is counteracted by several additional drugs such as Zofran, Kytril, Dexamethasone and Benadryl given intravenously just before your chemotherapy. Oral and rectal anti-nausea medications are also given to you for home use if needed.Hot tip #1 – If you start to feel nauseated at home, take you anti-nausea medications immediately. Don’t wait for nausea to get really bad.Hot tip #2 – If you are a little nauseated then eat small, frequent meals rather than 3 large meals a day. Try drinking fluids between rather than during meals. [back to top]
Will chemotherapy suppress my “immunity”?
The chemotherapy regimens used to treat gynecologic cancers generally do not adversely affect your immune system. Brief, mild to moderate suppression of your white blood cell count (WBC) is expected with many regimens. This does not make you more likely to catch a viral illness such as a cold or flu syndrome. On the other hand, an otherwise minor infection, such as a bladder infection, can be more difficult to treat if it occurs while your WBC is low. Check with us before having any minor surgery or dental work so that it can be performed when your blood counts are not suppressed. [back to top]
How long does the chemotherapy stay in my body?
Not very long. Most agents are completely metabolized and excreted within several hours. The damage sustained by cancer cells from chemotherapy agents, however, may not result in the death of the cell for several days. [back to top]
Where do chemotherapy drugs come from?
Some chemotherapy drugs are developed and completely synthesized in the laboratory. Many drugs are first found in nature and distilled from plant sources. [back to top]
Who gives me my chemotherapy?
The type, dose, schedule and duration of your chemotherapy is determined by your Gynecologic Oncologist. Administration of your chemotherapy is performed by chemotherapy certified nurses. All of our Chemotherapy Certified Nurses have extensive knowledge and some good “down home” advice about how to get through treatment of gynecologic cancer as easily as possible. [back to top]
What is a portacath?
A portacath is an implantable device that makes it much easier to draw blood for tests and much safer to administer chemotherapy. It consists of a catheter (small flexible tube) that is placed in a large vein and connected to a “port” about the size of a quarter. The port is placed under the skin of your upper chest. Once inserted we recommend that a portacath not be removed until the likelihood of a recurrence of your cancer is minimal. [back to top]
Where do I go to get my chemotherapy?
Very few regimens require hospital admission in the current era. A few chemotherapy drugs come in an oral form and can be taken at home. Advances in the miniaturization of computerized chemotherapy infusion pumps allow many regimens that require prolonged, constant administration of these drugs (eg 24-72 hours) to be given to you as an outpatient. By far the most common setting for chemotherapy administration, however, is in a specialized Chemotherapy Center. This consists of a specially equipped room where Chemotherapy Certified Nurses administer bolus or short-infusion chemotherapy to you. [back to top]
How is the chemotherapy administered to me?
Depending on the type of agent used chemotherapy for gynecologic cancers can be given orally, intravenously or directly injected into the abdominal cavity.  By far, the most common method of administration is directly into your bloodstream (intravenously), usually via a portacath (see above).  Direct injection into the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal chemotherapy) is sometimes used in the treatment of ovarian cancers.  Heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), given with the patient under an anesthetic, is also sometimes used in the treatment of gynecologic cancers limited to the abdominal cavity[back to top]