Starting chemotherapy? 6 questions to ask

Finding out that you need chemotherapy can be overwhelming. But as I’ve learned from working with cancer patients as a nurse over the past 18 years, it’s a little easier to manage when you know what to expect. And knowing what to expect requires asking the right questions. Below are six questions you and your caregiver should ask your care team before you start chemotherapy. What is my treatment plan? There are many different chemotherapy drugs. Your chemotherapy treatment may use one drug or a combination of drugs. So, ask for the name of each drug you will be receiving. At MD Anderson, we give our patients a printout for each medication they’ll be receiving. It describes how the medications work, as well as side effects and ways to manage them. It’s also important to ask how long you’ll be receiving chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is often given in “cycles.” This means the treatment is repeated on a regular schedule with days or weeks of rest in between. For instance, you may receive a dose of chemotherapy on days 1, 5 and 9 every 21 days (3 weeks) for a total of 6 cycles. This means your treatment would last approximately 18 weeks (multiply 6 cycles by 3 weeks). Knowing this information will help you plan ahead. What side effects may I experience? Many patients experience side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea and chemobrain during and after chemotherapy. But the side effects you experience will depend on the specific type of chemotherapy drugs you’re taking. So ask your doctor what you can expect, though it’s important to remember that...