A Guide to Chemotherapy

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Where will I get chemo?

The place you get your treatment depends on which chemo drugs you’re getting, the drug doses, your hospital’s policies, your insurance coverage, what you prefer, and what your doctor recommends.

You may be treated with chemo:

  • At home
  • In your doctor’s office
  • In a clinic
  • In a hospital’s outpatient department
  • In a hospital

Some of these settings may have private treatment rooms, while others treat many patients together in one large room. Talk to your doctor or nurse ahead of time so you know what to expect your first day.

How often will I need to get chemo, and how long will it last?

How often you get chemo and how long your treatment lasts depend on the kind of cancer you have, the goals of the treatment, the drugs being used, and how your body responds to them.

You may get treatments daily, weekly, or monthly, but they are usually given in on-and-off cycles. This means, for example, that you may get chemo the first 2 weeks and then have a week off, making it a 3-week cycle that will start over again after the week off. The break allows your body to build healthy new cells and regain its strength.

Many people wonder how long the actual drugs stay in their body and how they’re removed. Most chemo drugs are broken down by your kidneys and liver and then are removed from your body through your urine or stool. The time it takes your body to get rid of the drugs depends on many things, including the type of chemo you get, other medicines you take, your age, and how well your kidneys and liver work. Your doctor will tell you if you need to take any special precautions because of the drugs you are getting. (See “How can I protect myself and those I live with while I am getting chemo?” in the section called “Chemo safety” for general safety tips to follow at home.)

If your cancer comes back, chemo may be used again. This time, you may be given different drugs to relieve symptoms or to slow the cancer’s growth or spread. Side effects may be different, depending on the drugs, the doses, and how they’re given.

Last Medical Review: 06/09/2015
Last Revised: 06/09/2015