Chemotherapy administration can vary from patient to patient, but generally includes medications being given either intravenously or by an oral pill taken daily. Rounds of medication are typically given in set doses, followed by several days or weeks of no medication to allow the body to heal itself and recover from the trauma of chemo. This system is called a cycle and several cycles are usually needed before treatment ends. One or more medications may be used at once, or one may follow another in alternating cycles.
In most cases, chemotherapy administration is performed intravenously. This allows the doctor to keep track of how much medication the patient is receiving and to ensure all doses are given on time. Sometimes a device will be surgically inserted to the patient’s vein so that medication can be delivered frequently without additional pricks with a needle. This is not always needed, especially in those with fewer doses required altogether.
On occasion chemotherapy administration can be done by the patient in his or her home with an oral pill or capsule. This allows greater freedom and a less painful delivery system because the patient can take the medication at home with no needles being required. The use of oral chemotherapy administration is growing in popularity as science increases its effectiveness.
When taken orally, it is important for patients to remember to take their pills on time each and every day to ensure maximum effectiveness. Intravenous chemotherapy administration may take more time, and usually requires a trip to a clinic or hospital stay. The medication may be given by injecting the drugs into the vein all at once or they may be dripped slowly over the course of several hours or several days. Sometimes medications are injected somewhere other than veins, such as in muscle tissue.
Those who have been given a surgically implanted catheter for easier chemotherapy administration will need to have blood thinners injected into the area periodically to prevent clotting. This should be done even between cycles. Additional medications may be needed by all patients to help alleviate symptoms of chemo medication, such as nausea or vomiting.
Total cycles needed for most patients range from 4 to 6 cycles. The fewest cycles needed to be effective is usually given because chemotherapy is very hard on the body. Occasionally, additional cycles may be needed or other treatments may also be given in conjunction with chemotherapy. These can include special diets, vitamin therapy, ozone therapy, and radiation.