Halvorson Cancer Center

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Chemotherapy

The medical oncologists who see patients at SCCA at EvergreenHealth within Halvorson Cancer Center are Seattle Cancer Care Alliance medical oncologists. Our medical oncologists provide chemotherapy services in addition to helping guide the treatment planning process at the weekly Cancer Conference.

Chemotherapy can serve several purposes:

  • As a primary treatment (used alone or in combination with surgery and radiation therapy)
  • To shrink the tumor prior to surgery
  • After surgery or radiation treatment to eradicate any remaining cancer cells

Different chemotherapy drugs may be given at the same time or one after another. Patients may receive radiation therapy before, after, or while they are getting chemotherapy.

Depending on the type of cancer and where it is found, chemotherapy may be given in a number of different ways, including:

  • Injections or shots into the muscles
  • Injections or shots under the skin
  • Into an artery
  • Into a vein (intravenous, IV)
  • Pills taken by mouth
  • Shots into the fluid around the spinal cord or brain

When chemotherapy is given over a longer period of time, a thin catheter can be placed into a large vein near the heart. This is called a central line. The catheter is placed during a minor surgery. There are many types of catheters including central venous catheter, central venous catheter with a port, and percutaneously inserted central catheter (PICC).

Chemotherapy is most often given in cycles. These cycles may last one day, several days, or a few weeks or more. There will usually be a rest period when no chemotherapy is given between each cycle. A rest period may last for days, weeks, or months. This allows the body and blood counts to recover before the next dose.

Usually, chemotherapy is given at a special clinic or at the hospital but some people are able to receive chemotherapy in their home. If home chemotherapy is given, home health nurses will help with the medicines and IVs. Patients and their family members will receive special training.