FAQs of the Abington Hematology Oncology Associates
What should I bring to my first appointment?
The first appointment with your physician may be a long one. So, it helps to have the paperwork filled out prior to coming into the office. You should also have a list of all medications you are taking; this includes both over-the-counter, herbal and prescription drugs. Any physician you see for other reasons should also be noted in your paperwork. All pertinent medical records, pathology reports and radiology reports should be faxed from your other physician’s office or brought by you.
Can I bring a family member or friend to my visit?
We always encourage supportive friends and families to accompany you to your visit. There will frequently be a lot of information discussed with you on the first visit and it is helpful to have another person present to write things down or think of other questions related to your care. Of course, we will discuss things with you until it is completely understood by you whether you come alone or with your family.
Do I need blood work performed before my visit?
No. If you are being referred for abnormal laboratory values, it is important to have those records available to us during the visit. We draw all labs on site and have instant results on your white blood cell count, hemoglobin and platelets. Other lab work may take 1 day or longer for results.
What is chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy is a type of medication used to treat cancer. It is usually given as an intravenous injection but can occasionally be given as a pill. There are many different types of chemotherapeutic drugs used in even more combinations. Your physician will choose the one or a combination that is right for you.
If I need chemotherapy, where is it given?
Both of our offices have dedicated infusion centers located within the office itself. Our highly qualified chemotherapy nurses are specially certified and extensively trained to give you the best care while you are receiving chemotherapy.
What should I do on the day of my chemo treatment?
You should continue with your same routine unless told otherwise by your physician. It is usually recommended to eat at least a light breakfast or lunch. Take your regular medications unless told otherwise. You may also need to take anti-nausea medications or steroids prior to your treatment as directed by your physician.
Can I bring someone with me to my treatment?
Yes. We usually request that another person drive you home after your first treatment, since you may be especially tired from the chemotherapy or the premedications given to prevent nausea. That person may sit with you throughout the treatment or can leave and come back when you are finished.
How long does my chemotherapy treatment last, and what do I do during the treatment?
The duration of your treatment will very depending on your type of cancer and the chemotherapy drugs you are receiving. Your physician or nurse will give you an estimate on the time you will be sitting, but it may be longer than anticipated. You are encouraged to bring a book, magazine, knitting, headset or other activity. You may also want to bring a snack or lunch if your treatment is a long one.
What are the side effects of my chemotherapy?
Your doctor and nurse will discuss this with you in great detail at your visit. Many people receive different regimens, even if they have the same type of cancer, so a side effect that you heard about from a friend may not apply to you.
Will I lose my hair during chemo?
Not necessarily. Many regimens given today do not have alopecia (hair loss) as a side effect so you will need to discuss this with your doctor. If you do have hair loss, it usually occurs 2-3 weeks after the start of your first treatment. It doesn’t all fall out at once; you will start to notice more hair in clumps on your pillow, clothes, in the shower, or when you brush your hair. Some people prefer to shave it off at that point while others let it fall out. It usually grows back once your chemo treatment is fully completed or changed to a different regimen.
When should I call my doctor about a side effect?
There are several symptoms that may require hospitalization after you have received chemotherapy. You should call if you have:
-fever above 101*F
-nausea, vomiting, inability to eat for 2 days or more
-chest pain, shortness of breath
-sores in your mouth
-severe diarrhea, lightheadedness or dizziness
-other Of course, we would hope to prevent hospitalizations from severe symptoms so we do encourage a phone call early on. If you are not sure whether or not to call, it is best to err on the side of caution and call your doctor. We would much rather have you call and be given advice on how to manage your symptoms rather than waiting until your symptoms have progressed.
Will I have nausea and vomiting with chemo?
We do everything we can to prevent nausea and vomiting. Some regimens however do produce more nausea more than others. You may be given prescriptions prior to your first treatment to prevent nausea. It is best to have them filled and at your home so they can be immediately available to you when you need them. They work best when taken at the first sign of nausea rather than after you have begun vomiting.
Are there certain foods I should eat during chemotherapy?
Although you may not become nauseous, your appetite may be decreased for the duration of your treatment. Even if you are overweight, you should not lose weight during your treatment course unless it is done in a nutritious way. You may not feel like eating a normal meal, but you still need the same amount of calories and protein as you did prior to beginning treatment. This is even more important if you have lost a lot of weight before your diagnosis. Protein supplemented drinks are a healthy way to improve your calorie and protein intake when taken in addition to a meal (not as a substitute!). There are many brands available, even ones specifically designed for diabetics or patients who are lactose intolerant.
Where can I find out more about side effects and treatments of them?
It is always best to discuss this with your doctor. But, for an extensive list of side effects caused by chemotherapy, the website of People Living With Cancer www.plwc.org has fantastic, comprehensive and reliable information.
What if I have a problem after the office is closed?
Our physicians are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so there is always someone available to talk to you. However, you might talk with a doctor who is not familiar with your history. Make sure you, or the person who is calling for you, know your diagnosis, type of chemotherapy treatment you are receiving, the date of your last treatment and your pharmacy number when you call the physician.
If I need a blood or platelet transfusion where do I get it?
The transfusions need to be given in the outpatient area of the hospital-this will be either at Abington Memorial Hospital or Holy Redeemer Hospital.
Can I take alternative therapy or herbal medications in addition to chemotherapy to boost my immune system or help improve my chances?
While we always encourage patients to do everything they can to fight cancer, many alternative agents are unproven in their effectiveness at what they claim to do. Furthermore, they may interact with your chemotherapy in ways that are not anticipated by your doctor and could even be harmful. It is best to check with your doctor before taking any new medication, herbal remedy or alternative treatments (such as acupuncture).