Our Clearview Cancer Institute team recognizes that this is a difficult time for you. The following are answers to some of our most commonly asked questions.
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Cancer is treated with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or biological therapy. Patients with cancer are often treated by a team of specialists, which may include a medical oncologist (specialist in cancer treatment), a surgeon, a radiation oncologist (specialist in radiation therapy), and others. The doctors may decide to use one treatment method or a combination of methods. The choice of treatment depends on the type and location of the cancer, the stage of the disease, the patient's age and general health, and other factors. Some cancer patients take part in a clinical trial (research study) using new treatment methods. Such studies are designed to improve cancer treatment.
The word "chemotherapy" often conjures up fearful images of nausea, pain, fatigue, and hair loss in people's minds; however it is also one of the most effective methods of treating or controlling cancer. Chemotherapy literally means treatment with drugs; any drug which enters the body's system, including the use of aspirin and penicillin, can be described as chemotherapy. Most anticancer drugs are injected into a vein (IV) or a muscle; some are given by mouth. Chemotherapy is systemic treatment, meaning that the drugs flow through the bloodstream to nearly every part of the body.
Chemotherapy is given to create the best quality of life possible. This may be accomplished in one of three ways. One way in which chemotherapy can improve the quality of life is to cure; this means that the condition or tumor disappears and does not return. If a cure is not possible, then chemotherapy may be used to control the cancer by halting its spread and growth. If the cancer is so advanced that neither cure nor control are possible, then chemotherapy is administered with the intent of palliation so that the patient's quality, if not quantity, of life is improved to the highest degree possible. Often, patients who need many doses of IV chemotherapy receive the drugs through a catheter (a thin flexible tube). One end of the catheter is placed in a large vein in the chest. The other end is outside the body or attached to a small device just under the skin. Anticancer drugs are given through the catheter. This can make chemotherapy more comfortable for the patient. Patients and their families are shown how to care for the catheter and keep it clean. For some types of cancer, doctors are studying whether it helps to put anticancer drugs directly into the affected area.
Chemotherapy is generally given in cycles: a treatment period is followed by a recovery period, then another treatment period, and so on. Usually a patient has chemotherapy as an outpatient -- at the hospital, at the doctor's office, or at home. However, depending on which drugs are given and the patient's general health, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for a short time.
The side effects of chemotherapy depend mainly on the drugs and the doses the patient receives. Generally, anticancer drugs affect cells that divide rapidly. These include blood cells, which fight infection, help the blood to clot, or carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When blood cells are affected by anticancer drugs, patients are more likely to get infections, may bruise or bleed easily, and may have less energy. Cells that line the digestive tract also divide rapidly. As a result of chemotherapy, patients may have side effects, such as loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, hair loss, or mouth sores. For some patients, the doctor may prescribe medicine to help with side effects, especially with nausea and vomiting. Usually, these side effects gradually go away during the recovery period or after treatment stops.
Hair loss, another side effect of chemotherapy, is a major concern for many patients. Some chemotherapy drugs only cause the hair to thin out, while others may result in the loss of all body hair. Patients may feel better if they decide how to handle hair loss before starting treatment.
In some men and women, chemotherapy drugs cause changes that may result in a loss of fertility (the ability to have children). Loss of fertility may be temporary or permanent depending on the drugs used and the patient's age. For men, sperm banking before treatment may be a choice. Women's menstrual periods may stop, and they may have hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Periods are more likely to return in young women.
Historically, surgery is the first and oldest method of cancer treatment, and in many cases can offer the greatest chances for a cure. Technically defined, surgery is local treatment to remove the tumor. Tissue around the tumor and nearby lymph nodes may also be removed during the operation.
Surgery is used to accomplish a variety of goals. Preventative or prophylactic surgery is meant to remove potentially precancerous growths, which may become malignant if untreated. Sometimes, people with increased risks of cancer may have organs removed; for instance, women with a strong family history of breast cancer may choose to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy. Diagnostic surgery is used to obtain a tissue sample for further laboratory testing. Staging surgery explores the progression of a disease. Curative surgery involves the complete removal of a tumor, and is one of the most successful treatments for cancer. Restorative or reconstructive surgery is used to restore a person's appearance or bodily function; examples of this type of surgery include breast reconstruction or the installation of prostheses.
The side effects of surgery depend on the location of the tumor, the type of operation, the patient's general health, and other factors. Although patients are often uncomfortable during the first few days after surgery, this pain can be controlled with medicine. Patients should feel free to discuss pain relief with the doctor or nurse. It is also common for patients to feel tired or weak for a while. The length of time it takes to recover from an operation varies for each patient.
Radiation therapy is among the oldest and most economical ways to treat cancer. In radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy), high-energy rays are used to damage cancer cells and stop them from growing and dividing. Like surgery, radiation therapy is a local treatment; it can affect cancer cells only in the treated area. Radiation may come from a machine (external radiation). It also may come from an implant (a small container of radioactive material) placed directly into or near the tumor (internal radiation). Some patients get both kinds of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy can be administered to accomplish a wide variety of goals, and can be used at many stages of cancer treatment. In an early stage of cancer, radiation can be used to control or even cure the disease. It can be sued in conjunction with surgery to either shrink a tumor before an operation, or to prevent an excised tumor from growing back. It can also be used in cooperation with chemotherapy to aid in shrinking or reducing cancerous spread.
External radiation therapy is usually given on an outpatient basis in a hospital or clinic 5 days a week for several weeks. Patients are not radioactive during or after the treatment. For internal radiation therapy, the patient stays in the hospital for a few days. The implant may be temporary or permanent. Because the level of radiation is highest during the hospital stay, patients may not be able to have visitors or may have visitors only for a short time. Once an implant is removed, there is no radioactivity in the body. The amount of radiation in a permanent implant goes down to a safe level before the patient leaves the hospital. Many medical staff are involved in giving radiation therapy; a medical team may include a radiation oncologist, radiation physicist, dosimetrist, radiation therapist, or radiation therapy nurse. With radiation therapy, the side effects depend on the treatment dose and the part of the body that is treated. The most common side effects are tiredness, skin reactions (such as a rash or redness) in the treated area, and loss of appetite. Radiation therapy also may cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells, cells that help protect the body against infection. Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be unpleasant, the doctor can usually treat or control them. It also helps to know that, in most cases, they are not permanent.
Dress in layers such as sweaters or jackets which may be removed if you become warm or put on if you become cold. Also, wear front button shirts if you have a central venous catheter (port) which needs to be used for your treatmen
Yes, but please avoid foods with strong odors. Be sensitive of other patients around you. Our patients are offered small snacks and beverages at no charge from our hospitality cart that is staffed by our volunteers. Covington's at Clearview (2nd Floor) has deli sandwiches, soups, salads for lunch. There are also vending and soda machines available for you or your family members in our downstairs break room. Please ask a staff member for directions.
Only one family member (13 years of age or older) may sit with a patient during treatment.
Due to the compromised auto-immune systems of our patients we request that
young children DO NOT visit the facility. Children under 13 years of age are not allowed in treatment areas.
Since many of our patients are especially susceptible to infections, we ask that those with even mild infections, such as a cold or sore throat, not accompany patients to the facility.
Our volunteers are available to visit with you, provide snacks and assorted beverages, movies, magazines or books on tape to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
If you will be running out of your medication prior to your next scheduled visit, you may call 256-705-4216 for a prescription refill.
Our billing department will file your insurance for you. Any co-pays are due at the time of your visit. Clearview Cancer Institute accepts the following as payment: cash, check, VISA and MC. (VISA and MC may only be used if you have the 3 digit PIN number on the back of your card).
The business office should be notified that you have a cancer policy.
Please let your Clearview physician know of any doctors that you wish to be notified of your progress. Our Medical Records Department will need each doctor’s name, address, phone and fax number to receive regular updates of your progress.
Please allow 1-2 days for processing this request.
They may be obtained prior to leaving the office. Ask your physician during your appointment.
Limited cell phone use is allowed in all areas. Please be considerate of those around you.
The Russel Hill Cancer Foundation (RHCF) is a local foundation established to support new and innovative cancer research, as well as provide education and outreach programs. Your gift to RHCF will make a difference in the lives of cancer patients now and in the future. For more information, call (256) 705-4224.
Your gift to The Robin Lanier Stewart Memorial Fund will help provide financial assistance to local cancer patients who need help paying for medication and transportation costs associated with their treatment. For more information, call (256) 265-8077.