Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to fight disease. The term most often refers to drugs used to fight cancer. Sometimes it is called just "chemo."

Chemotherapy is one of the most significant advances in the history of medicine. For millions of people, it helps treat their cancer effectively, and they are able to enjoy full, productive lives, but it is not without risk.

Chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cancer cells. Unfortunately, chemo cannot tell the difference between a fast-growing cancer cell and a fast-growing healthy cell such as those found in hair follicles, skin, bone marrow and other areas of your body. Consequently, these healthy cells may be affected by the chemo, which leads to some side effects.

  Infusion therapy at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital takes place in the Emenhiser Center and features calming views of the healing garden.

Many, many chemotherapy drugs are used in various combinations. Although a single chemotherapy drug can be used to treat cancer, generally they are more powerful when used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs. Your chemotherapy treatment may consist of more than one drug. This is called combination chemotherapy. A combination of different drugs with different actions can work together to kill more cancer cells and reduce the chance that your cancer may become resistant to a particular chemotherapy drug.

Sometimes chemotherapy is the only treatment you will need. Sometimes, chemotherapy is used in addition to surgery or radiation therapy or with both. Here's why:

  • Chemotherapy may be used to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation therapy.
  • It may be used after surgery or radiation therapy to help destroy any remaining cancer cells.
  • It may be used with other treatments if your cancer returns.

When chemotherapy is given after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may still be present, it is called adjuvant therapy. When chemotherapy is used to shrink a tumor before surgery or radiation therapy, it is called neoadjuvant therapy. You may hear your doctor or nurse use these terms. Chemotherapy is given in cycles. Cycles are made up of the days you receive your chemo along with rest periods. Rest periods are built into the chemo cycles so that your body can build healthy new cells and regain its strength. A cycle will generally contain more than one day of chemo followed by the rest period. For example, you may receive chemo every 7 days for 3 weeks and then a week off before starting the next cycle. Your doctor will likely prescribe a number of cycles followed by testing to evaluate the effectiveness of the chemo.

Chemotherapy is given by many routes. In the hospital your chemo will likely be given by the intravenous route. This means a plastic tube called an IV catheter will be placed in your vein and the chemo will be given through it.

Sometimes patients have long term IV access devices like a "port" or a "PICC." If your doctor thinks one of these devices would be a good idea for you, you will receive education about it and given an opportunity to ask questions before it is placed. Receiving IV chemotherapy should not be painful. In fact, if you feel stinging, burning, coolness or numbness in the area of your IV you should tell your nurse immediately. Some chemotherapy takes just a few minutes to administer and some takes many hours. Others are given continuously over several days.

Chemotherapy is available at all of Samaritan's hospitals. Talk with your doctor about receiving your chemo closer to home.

Infusion therapy contact numbers:

Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, 541-768-7880
Samaritan Albany General Hospital, 541-812-3378
Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, 541-451-6427
Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital, 541-557-6000
Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, 541-574-4723