The information below describes what you might expect when getting targeted therapy. There are also other drugs that are used to treat cancer in different ways, including chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and immunotherapy.
Some targeted therapies are given as an infusion. Intravenous or IV chemo is put right into your bloodstream through a tiny, soft, plastic tube called a catheter. A needle is used to put the catheter into a vein in your forearm or hand; then the needle is taken out, leaving the catheter behind. Some patients may have a central venous catheter (CVC) or port placed that allows treatment to be given through the same line each time. It stays in as long as you’re getting treatment so you won’t need to be stuck with a needle each time. Different kinds of CVCs are available.
Intravenous drugs are given in these ways:
If a targeted therapy drug is taken by mouth, you swallow the pill, capsule, or liquid just like other medicines. Oral targeted therapy is usually taken at home. Because of this, it’s very important to make sure you know exactly how it should be taken. If you and your doctor have decided oral chemo is the best treatment option for you, be sure to ask questions and get instructions about:
Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse about any problems you have taking your oral treatment at home. For instance, if you’re throwing up or feel sick to your stomach, you might feel too sick to take your treatment. Or, you might not be able to keep your treatment pill down and could throw it up. Your doctor needs to know about any problems so they can change your treatment plan, if needed.
Much is known about the need to protect others from exposure to traditional or standard chemotherapy because it is hazardous. However, because targeted therapy drugs are newer, there is not as much information about long-term effects of exposure. To be safe, many experts recommend treating targeted therapy drugs as hazardous and taking the same precautions. To learn more read Targeted Therapy Safety.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Understanding targeted therapy. Accessed at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/personalized-and-targeted-therapies/understanding-targeted-therapy on December 19, 2019.
Brown VT. Targeted therapy. In Olsen MM, LeFebvre KB, Brassil KJ, eds. Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy Guidelines and Recommendations for Practice. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2019:103-139.
National Cancer Institute (NCI). Targeted cancer therapies. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/targeted-therapies/targeted-therapies-fact-sheet on December 19, 2019.
Last Revised: December 27, 2019
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