What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy refers to the use of medication that has the ability to kill or reduce the growth of cancer cells. There are different categories of chemotherapy drugs:
Some cancers require hormones to grow, and one type of chemotherapy works by blocking the body's production of the specific hormone for that cancer.
Another category of chemotherapy medicines works by directly attacking and killing cancer cells.
A third type of chemotherapy works by stimulating your own immune system to attack cancer.
How is Chemotherapy Given?
Some types of chemotherapy can be given by mouth (referred to as oral administration), and some types of chemotherapy must be put directly into your veins (referred to as intravenous or infusion therapy).
Putting chemotherapy directly into your veins requires several important steps to ensure that the dose that is being given is calculated and administered accurately. Each chemotherapy infusion at NMCC is triple checked:
First your oncologist orders the appropriate dose.
Second, our pharmacist double checks the dose. The pharmacist or pharmacy technician prepares the chemotherapy medication in a special sterile area.
Third, your oncology nurse then takes the drug from the pharmacist and checks a third time that the dose is precisely what was ordered for you.
Our Chemotherapy Infusion Specialists
Our oncology nurses have special training and a special certification for chemotherapy administration. The Oncology Nursing Society teaches a course on how to safely administer chemotherapy, and if the course is successfully completed, the nurse has earned the certification. Yearly updates and education on all new drugs and techniques are required for all chemotherapy nurses.
Certification and Quality
In addition, the American Society of Clinical Oncology has developed a program called the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) to certify that the entire care team involved with chemotherapy is fully trained and up to date in the management of chemotherapy. At New Mexico Cancer Center, we have earned QOPI certification every year since the beginning of the program. (Physicians: please also visit our QOPI Certification Page, including a video.)
Management of Side Effects
Sometimes chemotherapy can cause an allergic type of a reaction while it is being administered. Our nurses and advanced practice clinicians are trained in managing these reactions. We never give chemotherapy without a physician onsite in the clinic. Because we know that the reactions will occur on occasion, we give you medications to try to prevent those reactions, and our Rapid Response Team provides immediate assistance should a reaction occur. Usually a dose of an antihistamine and/or steroids will stop the reaction. For some patients, it is necessary to administer the chemotherapy slower than usual.
Oncology nurses and our entire team are trained to administer these life saving drugs safely. Please don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you might have. You can also learn more with the "Chemotherapy and You" booklet from the National Cancer Institute by clicking on the booklet cover on the upper right of this page.
Oncology nurses and our entire team are trained to administer these life saving drugs safely. Please don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you might have. You can also learn more with the "Chemotherapy and You" booklet from the National Cancer Institute by clicking on the booklet below.