What to Expect at the Chemotherapy Infusion Center
Roswell staff are always developing new and better ways to treat cancer, its symptoms and its side effects. This has resulted in many new patients seeking treatment at our hospital. As a result, some delays occur within our busy schedule. We apologize for any wait and want you to know that we are always looking for ways to improve our ability to manage the rapid growth of new patients. It may seem that you are waiting a long time or that people who arrived after you are being taken first. There are a few reasons why this may happen:
- Unexpected medical emergencies arise that require the staff’s immediate attention.
- People are triaged by medical urgency; those with the most urgent need are seen first.
- We may be waiting for your test results, which are necessary before your chemotherapy can be prepared and administered.
- Another patient may have come from another Center within Roswell and he or she may have already had all the required tests completed while at that Center.
It is best if you arrive at the CIC at your appointed time. Appointments are scheduled according to the amount of time the staff anticipates that each patient will need. If you are early, you may experience an extremely long wait time. If you arrive late, you may also experience an extremely long wait time as other patients will be seen at their appointed time. Saturday and Sunday appointments are available. Since there are fewer patients on these days, wait times are minimal, and therefore these appointments are encouraged with approval from your doctor.
Every effort will be made to minimize your wait time. If you have any questions or concerns, ask you nurse or nurse leader. If upon your arrival at the CIC the secretary or nurse informs you that there will be a delay, you may be given a pager so that you can take advantage of the many resources available at Roswell such as the Community Cancer Resource Center, the Chapel, the MJK Park or the cafeteria while you wait. The staff will page you so that you know when to return.
Your appointment in the CIC will include the lab tests and other processes we have described. That means that if you have an 8 a.m. appointment, the time it takes for lab test results and pharmacy preparation of the drug means that your chemotherapy may not begin until about 9 a.m. It is important that you are aware of this in the event you have to arrange for transportation or any other personal matter.
We want your appointment to go as safely and smoothly as possible and we want you to know what to expect so you can plan accordingly. As we strive to provide the best and latest cancer treatments, nothing is more important to us than your safety and your comfort. We welcome your suggestions as to how to make this experience more comfortable for you.
Receiving Your Chemotherapy Infusion
Chemotherapy infusion is usually done through an IV, where the drugs can be delivered directly into a vein – usually on the hand or lower arm. Please let the nurse know if you have any burning, redness or swelling at the IV site during your treatment. Depending on the type of cancer you have, the drugs you are receiving and the duration of your treatments, you may receive your chemotherapy through a catheter, port or pump:
Catheters are soft, thin tubes placed in a larger vein than those in your arm. The catheter remains in place between treatments avoiding the needle stick of starting a new IV. Blood (for testing) can also be removed through this catheter. Intrathecal catheters may be placed in your spinal canal to deliver drugs into the spinal fluid rather than the blood system. Intracavity catheters are placed directly into a cavity (hollow space) such as the chest, belly or pelvis for local delivery of the chemotherapy drugs and removed once therapy has been injected.
Ports are small, round discs placed under the skin to which a catheter can be attached during treatment sessions. Though you can feel it, if it is properly placed and kept clean, there should be no discomfort. A port is removed when chemotherapy is completed.
Pumps control how fast the drugs are delivered into your system. External pumps are portable so you can move about during treatment. Internal pumps can be surgically implanted under the skin and have a reservoir in which to place the chemotherapy agent which they will release on a timed basis.
Length of Treatment
Administration of chemotherapy in CIC can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 10 hours, depending on the treatment protocol, dose, and how it is administered. Those that require more than 10 hours are done in the In-patient section of Roswell or at home. Ask your doctor prior to your first treatment how long they expect it will take. For the remaining treatments, you can check with the CIC staff.
During Your Treatment
CIC has comfortable recliner chairs and individual rooms. The nurses will decide whether you can use the recliner or if you need a room. There are many factors involved, including how busy the schedule is, room availability and whether a person needs to be isolated from others such as those with a weakened immune system. Each recliner has a 13” color TV. Newspapers are also provided for patients.
- One visitor at a time is allowed to be with you in the clinic. Please note: to minimize disruption to the other people receiving chemotherapy and to prevent exposing patients with weak immune systems to infection, visitors must be over age 16.
- You may bring a snack with you or purchase something at the cafeteria to bring to the CIC. Please avoid foods that have a strong odor as they may cause nausea for the others receiving treatment.
- Dress warmly. The CIC may be cool, especially after having received IV fluids. Blankets are available.
Make a list of all the medications and doses you are currently taking and bring it with you to all of your appointments. If another doctor prescribes medication while you are receiving chemotherapy treatments, make sure he or she knows what chemotherapy you are receiving and when. Also, keep your doctor at Roswell informed of any drug you take – both prescription and over-the counter medications.
Some medications, including vitamins and herbal supplements may affect your chemotherapy. Please ask your physician what you may or may not take during your chemotherapy.