Starting chemotherapy

We will always have time to help and support you throughout your chemotherapy treatment.

Your first visit

At your first appointment, you will meet with your Medical Oncologist or Haematologist who will talk you through your diagnosis and treatment plan, and address any questions you may have. One of our experienced nurses will take some time to discuss possible treatment side effects and how to manage them.

We understand that your family are an important part of your support network and we encourage you to bring a support person with you when you visit our centre.

It is important to ask questions that will help you gain a good understanding of your diagnosis. Having a loved one with you can help. They can be there for support and can also ask any questions you may not think of. It’s normal to feel some anxiety at this time, and we are here to help you and your family work through this.

Starting treatment

When it’s time to start your treatment, in most cases, an intravenous (IV) drip will be inserted into a vein in your arm or your Central Venous Access Device (CVAD) accessed by one of our experienced nurses. A blood test is usually taken prior to your treatment to ensure your blood counts are at a satisfactory level for your first treatment.

Depending on your treatment, you might also be given anti-nausea medication. You might receive drugs during your treatment that make you feel drowsy. If this happens it is important you have a family member, friend or carer to take you home. If you need help with transport please speak to our administration team, who can arrange on your behalf.

Chemotherapy is usually given in multiple courses (cycles) for a set amount of time, or for as long as the treatment is effective. Having the treatment in cycles allows time for the healthy cells in your body to recover between treatments.

What to bring

Having a few personal items can make you more comfortable during treatment. Here is a checklist of things you could bring with you:

Something to read - A favourite novel or light magazine can be a calming distraction.
Mobile phone and/or laptop/tablet - Free wireless internet is available throughout our centres to help you stay connected.
Warm clothing - Loose layers will help with access for treatment and let you take clothing off or put on depending on how you’re feeling.
Favourite food or snacks - We will have food and drink available, but you might want to bring your favourite snacks and drinks.
A family member or friend - All our treatment areas have room for your carer to come along for support and give you a ride home.

Some important essentials

Medicare card
Health insurance card
Concession, pension or DVA card (if applicable)
Safety net entitlement card
Current medications including any creams, inhalers, patches or drops
Any medicines bought over-the-counter or at a supermarket
Any supplements or natural medicines you take

Frequently Asked Questions

How does chemotherapy work?

Chemotherapy works by killing cells that are rapidly dividing, such as cancer cells. As well as killing cancer cells, chemotherapy also kills normal cells that are rapidly dividing. However, unlike cancer cells, normal cells can repair the damage and can recover.

Does it cause side effects?

Chemotherapy destroys cancer cells. However, some healthy cells are also damaged, and it is this damage that causes many of the more common side effects of chemotherapy. Side effects vary depending on the drugs used and the individual person. Most are temporary and can be treated or managed.

Will I lose or gain weight as a result of my treatment?

Each person responds differently to chemotherapy, and this also applies to weight. Some people may lose weight, while others may gain weight. Your cancer may also affect your weight. If you have any concerns about your weight during treatment, please raise them with your doctor.

Will I lose my hair as a result of my treatment?

Some people receiving chemotherapy will lose their hair, depending on the type of drugs you receive. Your doctor or nurse will be able to tell you whether your particular treatment will cause hair loss.

Am I able to take vitamins and complementary medicines?

Some vitamins and medicines can interfere with the effects of chemotherapy. Please provide your doctor with a list of the medicines you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medicines. If you start taking any new medicines during your treatment please let your doctor know.

Can I exercise during my treatment?

It’s recommended you do some light exercise, such as walking, to help manage fatigue and improve wellbeing. Studies have shown that exercising during your therapy is associated with an improved outcome.

Can I continue to work while I’m being treated?

Your ability to continue to work will depend on the nature of your work, your type of treatment and how well you feel during your treatment. Please discuss this with your doctor.

Are there certain activities I won’t be able to do during treatment?

There may be certain activities you won’t be able to participate in during your treatment. This will depend on the treatment you are having, your diagnosis and your blood counts at the time. If you are unsure about whether you should take part in a particular activity, please speak with your doctor or nurse.

Should I avoid people who are unwell while I’m being treated?

Chemotherapy can affect the production of blood cells in your body, including your white blood cells, which protect against infection. When your white blood cells are low, you are more at risk of developing a cold or infection. During this time, it’s important to avoid people who are unwell.

Understanding Costs

We work with you to ensure you’re aware of any out-of-pocket expenses and make sure there are no surprises throughout your treatment.
Learn more

What is Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells. There are many different kinds of medicines and treatment plans.
Learn more

Your Care Team

Every member of Icon’s team are here to help you. Here are some of the people you may meet and the role they have in your care.
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