There is a lot of care going in to the behind the scenes preparation of your chemotherapy treatment. Your pharmacy and nursing staff provide many services including built-in safety checks that ensure the right patient receives the right drug at the right dose at the right time. Our service also includes patient-specific preparation of every treatment. Treatments are made to order, only after labs, order, and product selection have been checked. Most of our medications require special handling, both to protect the sterility of the product for patient safety and to protect the preparer and the facility from the toxicity of the product. Accuracy and safety is of the utmost importance in preparing your individualized treatment.
Be very cautious about using dietary supplements while on active treatment for cancer. Several recent studies have shown that cancer patients taking antioxidants have had poorer outcomes than patients who did not. Consider that one of the ways chemo works is to deny cancer cells the necessary building blocks they need to divide and make more cells. By taking many vitamins and supplements at high doses, patients may be providing the cancer everything it needs to get “around” the chemo and survive. Herbal medications have the added potential to actually interfere or block the chemotherapy. A recent study that was attempting to show the benefits of green tea for cancer patients accidentally found that drinking green tea while taking chemotherapy actually inactivated the drug bortezomib. Without that study, the patients would have been unaware that the tea they were drinking was interfering with their chemo doses and rendering them harmless to the cancer.
The answer is…it depends. One way to answer when a drug will be out of your system refers to half-life. So if you are wondering when our lab would be unable to detect any trace of your chemotherapy in the tissues of your body, it would depend on the half-life of that drug. Because that is a characteristic of each drug, this could range from minutes to weeks. However, many times, what patients really want to know when they ask this question is when they will begin to clear the drug so they start to feel better from the side effects. In that case, the answer is most acute effects of chemotherapy resolve within 2-5 days of treatment. If you do not feel better at this time, or if your side effects are difficult to manage at any time, please talk to your physician or even your nurse. Many supportive care medications are available to assist patients with the side effects of chemotherapy.
Every home infusion pump has a sticker with our 24-hour hotline printed on it. Do not be afraid to call the 800-number on the pump. The hotline is staffed by trained nursing staff experienced with the pumps we provide.