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Chemotherapy

Thompson is a leader in chemotherapy services and provides patients proven, drug-based treatments and the latest clinical trial medicines. Our team of board-certified oncologists and certified nurse practitioners deliver on-site medical oncology care and treatment at six infusion centers throughout our region.

Locations

Thompson Infusion Services – Downtown
a department of LeConte Medical Center
1915 White Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37916
(865) 331-1720

Thompson Infusion Services – West
a department of LeConte Medical Center
9711 Sherrill Boulevard, Suite 202
Knoxville, TN 37932
(865) 373-5000

Thompson Infusion Services – Oak Ridge
a department of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center
200 New York Ave, Suite 200
Oak Ridge, TN 37830
(865) 835-5400

Thompson Infusion Services – Lenoir City
a department of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center
576 Fort Loudoun Medical Center Drive
Lenoir City, TN 37774
(865) 271-1609

Thompson Infusion Services – Maryville
a department of LeConte Medical Center
215 Blount Cancer Center
Maryville, TN 37904
(865) 977-1065

Thompson Infusion Services – Sevier
a department of LeConte Medical Center
710 Middle Creek Road
Sevierville, TN 37862
(865) 331-1720

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy refers to the use of medicines to treat cancer. It has been used for many years and is one of the most common treatments for cancer. In most cases, chemotherapy works by interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to grow and reproduce. Different groups of medicines work in different ways to fight cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used alone for some types of cancer or in combination with other treatments such as radiation or surgery. Often, a combination of chemotherapy medicines is used to fight a specific cancer. Certain chemotherapy medicines may be given in a specific order depending on the type of cancer they are being used to treat.

While chemotherapy can be quite effective in treating certain cancers, chemotherapy medicines reach all parts of the body, not just the cancer cells. Because of this, there can be many side effects during treatment. Being able to anticipate these side effects can help you and your caregivers prepare for and manage them.

How is chemotherapy given?

  • As a pill to swallow
  • As an injection (shot) into the muscle or fat tissue
  • Intravenously (directly to the bloodstream; also called IV)
  • Topically (applied to the skin)
  • Directly into a body cavity

How often is chemotherapy given?

To reduce the damage to healthy cells and to give them a chance to recover, chemotherapy is usually given in cycles. Chemotherapy may be given daily, weekly, every few weeks, or monthly, depending on your situation.

Where is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy is usually given in an outpatient setting, such as a hospital, clinic, or physician’s office. Patients receiving chemotherapy will be watched for reactions during treatments. Since each chemotherapy treatment session may last for a while, patients are encouraged to take along something that is comforting, such as music to listen to. It is also recommended to bring something to help pass the time, such as a deck of cards or a book. Since it is hard to predict how a patient will feel after chemotherapy, it is important to have someone drive the person to and from the appointment.

What are some chemotherapy medicines and potential side effects?

The following list gives examples of a few of the more commonly used chemotherapy medicines. It lists some of the cancer types but not necessarily all of the cancers for which they are used. It also describes common side effects. Side effects may happen just after treatment (days or weeks), or they may happen later (months or even years) after the chemotherapy has been given. The side effects listed below do not make up an all-inclusive list, as other side effects not listed are possible.

How will I react to chemotherapy?

As each person’s individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team possible side effects of treatment before treatment begins. Ask for written information on each medicine that you’re getting so you know what to watch for and what to report to your healthcare provider.

Chemotherapy Medicines

Carboplatin

Is usually given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for cancers of the ovary and lung. Possible side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions, including feeling lightheaded or dizzy, fever, chills, hives, itching, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, or swelling of the face, tongue, or throat (uncommon)
  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (usually a short-term side effect happening the first 24 to 72 hours following treatment)

Cisplatin

Is usually given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for cancers of the bladder, ovary, lung, and testicles. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Allergic reaction, including a rash and/or labored breathing (rare)
  • Nausea and vomiting (usually a short-term side effect happening the first 24 to 72 hours following treatment)
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet
  • Ringing in ears and hearing loss
  • Fluctuations in blood electrolytes
  • Kidney damage

Cyclophosphamide

Can be given intravenously (IV) or orally (as a pill) and is used mainly for lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma, breast cancer, and ovarian carcinoma. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Bladder irritation that can lead to blood in the urine (hemorrhagic cystitis)
  • Fertility impairment
  • Lung, kidney, or heart damage (with high doses)

Docetaxel

Given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for breast, lung, stomach, head and neck, and prostate cancers. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Nausea, vomiting, and weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Rash
  • Numbness and tingling in hands and feet
  • Fluid retention
  • Nail changes (brittle nails, separation of the fingernail from the nail bed)

Doxorubicin

Given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for breast, endometrium, lung, and ovarian cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Mouth ulcers and loss of appetite
  • Nails and skin creases in hands may darken
  • Hair loss (reversible)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heart damage

Etoposide

Can be given intravenously (IV) or orally (as a capsule), and is used mainly for cancers of the lung and testicles. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Allergic reaction (rare)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea

Fluorouracil

Given intravenously (IV) or as a cream to treat skin cancers, and is used mainly for cancers of the colon, rectum, and head and neck. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Diarrhea
  • Appetite loss
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Photosensitivity (skin gets burned easily)
  • Dry skin, darkening of skin and nail beds

Gemcitabine

Given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for cancers of the pancreas, breast, ovary, and lung. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Appetite loss
  • Tiredness

Methotrexate

May be given intravenously (IV), intrathecally (injected into the spinal column), as a shot into a muscle (IM), or orally (as a pill), and is used mainly for cancers of the breast, lung, head and neck, blood, bone, and lymph system. Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Appetite loss
  • Skin rashes and photosensitivity (increased risk of sun burn)
  • Kidney damage (with high-dose therapy)

Paclitaxel

Given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly with cancers of the breast, ovary, and lung. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Allergic reaction
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Change in taste
  • Thin or brittle hair; hair loss (reversible)
  • Joint pain (short term)
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes

Vinblastine

Given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for lymphoma and cancers of the testis, breast, and head and neck. Possible side effects include:

  • Decrease in blood cell counts
  • Mouth sores
  • Tiredness
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Constipation or abdominal cramping

Vincristine

Given intravenously (IV) and is used mainly for leukemias, lymphomas, and childhood cancers. Possible side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Tiredness
  • Numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes

This is not a complete list of chemotherapy medications or possible side effects. If you have any questions about your treatment or how to manage side effects, please talk with your physician or patient navigator.

If you are interested in learning more about clinical trials at Thompson, please click here for more information.