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Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy and Targeted Therapy

What is chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a type of drug that destroys rapidly growing cancer cells. Immunotherapy harnesses the power of the immune system to control cancer. Targeted therapy targets specific proteins on the cancer cells. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy is often used in combination for treatment of blood cancers.

This treatment is to control the growth of cancer cells. The potential benefits are disease eradication or symptom relief also known as palliative therapy.

How is the treatment administered?

Chemotherapy and immunotherapy may be given in different forms and depends on the drug formulation.

Some are given via injections which may be administer as a quick bolus injection of less than 10 min while others run over a period of time ranging from ½ hour to over 24 hours.

There are also injections given in the area under the skin, called subcutaneous injections which takes minutes to administer.Some therapies have oral formulations.

Depending on the treatment protocol and patient's characteristics, therapy may be administered inpatient, outpatient at the Haematology Centre or at home with the support of our home therapy team.

How can I prepare myself for treatment?

Before starting, your doctor will explain to you the treatment, how it is done and the risk and side effects. Do discuss your concerns with the treatment with your doctor. In addition, there are some considerations to prepare yourself prior to the start of treatment.

  • Alternative arrangements at home and work: Treatment may be done inpatient or on an outpatient basis. For some people, they may be able to continue work or your usual activities during the treatment period. Do have a conversation on how the treatment will affect you so that you are able to made arrangements at home and at work.

  • Blood investigations: Before each treatment, blood investigations may be required to ensure you are well.

  • Care-givers arrangements: You may need help with task at home and with travelling. It will be good to have caregiver support from family and friends. After your treatment session, you may feel tired or sleepy due to some of the medications administered and this may make driving difficult. It will be advisable to have someone accompany you home or arrange for transport home.

If you are not feeling well or experienced side effects, please inform your doctor or nurse to ensure that proper assessment can be carried out.

What to expect after the treatment?

During the course of treatment, unforeseen conditions may arise which could require the planned treatment to be altered. Each patient responds differently to the treatment and could have differing side effects. Do inform your doctor/nurse if you experience any or unusual side effects and seek medical attention.

There is no guarantee that the desired results or outcome may be achieved as each patient reacts differently to the treatment. The cancer may continue to grow/progress, or stop progressing and go to remission.

What are the side effects of treatment?

There will be side effects associated with chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Some are common and mild while others are dangerous but often these are rare. The profiles of side effects differ based on the type of therapy given. Some side effects may be addressed or prevented with other medications. It is important to have a conversation with your doctor about the side effects of the particular treatment you'll receive.

Common side effects includes:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Diarrhoea or Constipation

  • Fatigue and tiredness

  • Loss of appetite

  • Mouth Sores

  • Change in taste