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Chemotherapy is the use of medicine to treat cancer. The medicine stops or slows the growth and spread of cancer cells. Your child may get the medicine as pills or liquid to swallow. More commonly, the medicine may be given through a needle into a vein or muscle. For some types of cancer, the medicine is put into the spine or another part of the body. Often several medicines are given at the same time.
Chemotherapy kills cancer cells, but it can also kill normal cells. It often lowers the number of blood cells in the body. This can reduce your child's ability to fight infection and make it harder to stop bleeding. Chemotherapy may also cause side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, or hair loss. Keep in mind that most side effects are temporary. They will go away after your child finishes the treatment. During treatment there are medicines your child can take to help lessen the side effects.
Chemotherapy can help your child fight the cancer. To get the best results, it is very important for your child to get all the treatments or take all the medicine your doctor prescribes.
You can plan ahead to help your child pass the time during treatment sessions. Does your child like to listen to music? If so, bring your child's favourite music on a personal music player along with headphones or earbuds. Listening to music can help your child relax. Or you may want to find something else your child enjoys, such as being read to, or watching a movie, or playing a game.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your cancer clinic nurse (during regular clinic hours) or oncologist on-call (after hours) now or seek immediate medical care if:
For further information see Children’s Oncology Group Chemotherapy.
Adaptation Date: 10/31/2022
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
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