The Center for Thoracic Oncology at Boston Medical Center is, first and foremost, here to serve you and your family. We are a team of dedicated specialists whose common goal is to treat your cancer and lead you on the path to recovery in as comfortable a way as possible. You will be treated in state-of-the-art facilities using a multidisciplinary approach. Our staff of compassionate diagnosticians, surgeons, physician assistant, nurse practitioners, and surgical nurses work as a team to provide you with the most advanced and effective medical treatment in New England—as well as unmatched patient care.
Chemotherapy is a drug treatment for cancer. It is systemic, meaning it circulates through and affects your entire body. The drugs work by entering the bloodstream and killing abnormal cells or stopping them from dividing. They are most often given by intravenous (IV) infusion, into a vein through a tiny plastic tube called a catheter. Other ways they are given include pills.
Your cancer's type, stage, and location will determine the specific medicine(s), strength, and frequency of your chemotherapy. You may have chemotherapy alone or with surgery or radiation. We will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your unique situation.
Chemotherapy drugs are very strong, which is how they can cure, control, or relieve symptoms of cancer, and they work best on cells that are quickly dividing. Some quickly dividing cells in the body are not cancerous, however, and they can be damaged, resulting in side effects. Healthy cells usually repair themselves after chemotherapy is over. Fast-dividing cells include:
- Cells that grow hair, resulting in hair loss on your head and body
- Cells in your bone marrow, which can cause fatigue and a higher risk of bleeding, bruising, low blood count, and infection
- Cells of the skin and mouth, which can cause sores and dryness
- Cells in your stomach and intestines, causing nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
Medications can curb these side effects much more effectively than in the past. After a session of chemotherapy, which may occur anywhere from daily to once a month, you may feel tired, and you may not feel like eating. Talk to your physician about ways to cope with these life changes.
How to Prepare
We suggest bringing a list of questions with you when you visit us, as we know chemotherapy can seem overwhelming at first. We welcome questions and will do our best to fully address your concerns. You may wish to ask a friend or family member to accompany you for the first few sessions, for support.
What to Expect
How often and how long your chemotherapy visits are will depend on the type, stage, and location of your cancer, as well as where in the treatment process you are. A typical session involves you arriving to your assigned area, discussing issues with a nurse, sitting in a chair or lying down on a bed, and having your IV line started. You may read, watch television, talk with visitors or other patients, sleep, or engage in other low-key activities during infusion.
During and after the treatment period, you will have frequent physical exams, tests, and imaging to track your progress and the effects of the chemotherapy. We will share this information with you and your family and make recommendations as we go. If at any point during the process you have questions or concerns about treatment, side effects, emotional considerations, or anything at all, please do not hesitate to call on us.
The recovery process varies greatly, depending on the individual case. It may take hours, days, or weeks until you have all of your strength back. In the meantime, get plenty of rest, do some low impact exercise if you feel up to it, and eat a balanced diet full of easy-to-digest foods like yogurt, shakes, and fruit. Meditation, yoga, and other alternative therapies can be helpful as well.