Chemotherapy Information

General Chemotherapy Information

Chemotherapy is treatment with drugs that destroy the cancer cells. Chemotherapy will affect all rapidly dividing cells. This includes cancer cells, but also some normal cells. Some rapidly dividing cells are blood forming cells (bone marrow), hair follicles, and cells lining the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract including stomach, intestine and mouth). These effects on the normal cells are called side effects. It is important to realize that most side effects are temporary and reversible. Most will improve after stopping the drugs or by decreasing the dose. Some side effects may result in long term problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, nervous system, hearing, or fertility. Also, patients who receive chemotherapy could be at risk for developing a second, unrelated cancer later in life.

Chemotherapy drugs can be given into a vein (IV, intravenously), into a muscle (IM, intramuscularly), just below the skin (SC, subcutaneously), into the spinal fluid (IT, intrathecally) or can be taken by mouth (PO, orally).

Each child responds differently to a drug.  It is important to report any problems, and/or any unusual happenings to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Please refer to the section on Treatment and Effects and the section on Caring for your Child and Family - Giving Medications at Home in the parent binder (The Children's Oncology Group - Family Handbook) for general information on chemotherapy.  After reading this material, if any questions or concerns should arise, please ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They are there to help you.

For chemotherapy agent patient and family information please access the following link:

http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/TestsAndTreatments/GivingMedication/Pages/chemotherapy.aspx

The information sheets are also available in French (by clicking Francais found on the specific agent information page and not in the blue tool bar at the top).

For agents that do not appear on this list, type in the agent name in the search bar. If still no information is available contact the IWK Oncology Pharmacy office (902-470-6474).

When printing, it is best to click on the print symbol adjacent to the agent name and not print as a right click or under the file tab. It will then appear as a PDF (much more readable for the recipient).

For all other aspects of care please refer to the APPHON/ROHPPA Guideline section of this website.

Special Instructions:

  • Tell your cancer doctor (oncologist) before you give your child any new medicines or health related products. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vaccines, remedies, herbal products, nutritional supplements or vitamins. Some of these products can interfere with your child’s treatment.
  • Do not give your child any medicines containing Aspirin®, ASA, Advil®, Motrin®, ibuprofen or any other medicines like these called NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These medicines reduce the blood’s ability to stop bleeding if you get a cut or bruise.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol as it will increase the chance of stomach upset. It can increase liver problems. Also alcohol may interfere with many of the medicines your child may be taking.
  • Street drugs can also cause serious problems during treatment. Your cancer doctor should know if they are being used. All efforts should be made to prevent your child from smoking.
  • This is especially important for cancer medicines that cause lung problems.
  • Your child should avoid excessive sun exposure as chemotherapy may make your child more sensitive to sunlight. Wear a hat and cover exposed skin while receiving treatment. Use a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 (if age under 6 months, ask your cancer doctor).
  • For females of childbearing age: Do not get pregnant. Use recommended method of birth control while on treatment and until you are told it is safe after treatment. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant. Do not breastfeed while on treatment and until you are told it is safe after treatment.
  • For males of childbearing age: Do not get your partner pregnant. Use recommended method of birth control while on treatment and until you are told it is safe after treatment. Tell your doctor right away if your partner becomes pregnant.
  • You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. It is important to share this information with anyone involved in your child’s care.
  • Store medicines in their original container and away from direct sunlight or heat. Some medicines are stored at room temperature and some need to be kept in the refrigerator but do not let them freeze. Your pharmacist/nurse will tell you if your medicine needs to be kept in the refrigerator. Check with your pharmacist if it is possible to transfer your child’s medications into daily dosing systems, if desired. Do not store in humid places such as the bathroom. Keep them out of reach of children and pets and lock them away if possible.
  • Your nurse will give you specific guidelines for handling the cancer medicines your child may need to take at home.
  • It is best to choose one pharmacy to take care of all your child’s needs. The pharmacy can then have all the special medicines your child needs available. Call the pharmacy ahead of time to order medicine refills so you never run out of your child’s medicines. The pharmacist can also follow the medicines on your child’s profile to help prevent any problems.
  • For medicines taken once a day by mouth: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can if it is within 12 hours of the missed dose. If it is over 12 hours since your missed dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your usual dosing times. Do not give a double dose. Call the IWK clinic* to ask about making up the missed dose.
  • For medicines taken once a week by mouth: If you miss a dose, take it the next day. If it is more than one day late, call the IWK clinic* to ask about making up the missed dose.
  • For medicines that are tablets and/or capsules to be swallowed: If your child vomits, repeat only if the vomiting occurs directly (within 5 to 10 minutes) after swallowing and repeat only the tablets and/or capsules that can be seen and counted. If your child vomits, allow some time to get over the vomiting. Call the IWK clinic* to tell them what happened & to ask about making up any missed dose(s).  If your child vomits a repeated dose, do not repeat again.
  • For medicines that are liquid or dissolved in liquid to be swallowed: If your child vomits, repeat only if the vomiting occurs directly (within 5 to 10 minutes) after swallowing and the amount seems large. Call the IWK clinic* to tell them what happened & to ask about making up the missed dose(s).  If your child vomits a repeated dose, do not repeat again.

* Call the IWK clinic during clinic hours 8 AM to 4 PM on Monday to Friday at (902) 470-8819