Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When will I start having side effects from my chemo treatment?
A. Side effects vary from person to person, and different chemotherapies have different side effects. Typically, side effects such as nausea and fatigue won’t start until a day or two after treatment. This tends to be the time when the medications we give you in your IV for nausea start to wear off. Your provider will give you with a prescription for anti-nausea medication to take at home if needed. Some of the most common side effects are alopecia (hair loss), low blood counts, nausea and or vomiting, fatigue and mucositis (mouth sores or tenderness).
Q. Are there any particular foods that will bring my blood counts up?
A. Most chemotherapy -associated low blood counts (white blood count, red blood count and platelets) cannot be improved by eating certain foods. For example, if you are anemic due to your chemotherapy treatment, eating iron-rich foods will not improve your anemia, as it is chemotherapy -induced anemia and not a result of an iron deficiency. Occasionally your provider may prescribe certain injections called “growth factors” that can help chemotherapy -related low white or red blood cells.
Q. Why do I have to have labs drawn each time I come in for chemotherapy?
A. Low blood counts are a common side effect of most chemotherapy treatments. Your provider and nurse practitioner will want to assess your blood counts before giving you your chemotherapy. If your blood counts are too low, your provider may want to readjust the dosage of your chemotherapy or hold it so your blood counts can recover.
Q. When will I lose my hair? Will it grow back?
A. Hair loss does not occur with all chemotherapy. If you do experience hair loss or thinning, it may be noticeable as soon as the second or third week after your first treatment of chemotherapy. It may happen suddenly or slowly and in an uneven pattern. It is common for hair loss to include any kind of hair, including eyelashes and eyebrows. In almost all cases of chemotherapy-induced hair loss, your hair will resume growth after your treatment is completed.
Q. Can my family and friends come with me to treatment?
A. We ask that you bring only one support person with you to treatment. If more than one person comes with you they may be asked to stay in the waiting room. Our Northside Campus has an atrium seating area and cafe for your family and friends to wait if necessary.
Q. Can I eat during my treatment?
A. Some snacks, coffee, tea and water are available for you and your support person, but you are encouraged to bring snacks or a lunch from home with you to treatment if you know your treatment will be long or if you might get hungry.
Q. Can I take my other medications while undergoing chemotherapy treatment?
A. Unless told otherwise by your oncologist, continue to take any previously prescribed medications. If you are on pain medication, please remember to bring it with you to your chemotherapy treatments if you will need to take it during treatment time. Many over the counter medications are safe to take during treatment, such as those for constipation, diarrhea and indigestion. Tylenol is the only over-the-counter pain medication we recommend you take unless your provider has told you otherwise.
Q. Can I go to the dentist or have my teeth cleaned?
A. Ask your provider or nurse practitioner when the best time for you to see the dentist while undergoing chemotherapy treatment would be, as the answer will vary from individual to individual.
Q. When should I call my provider?
A. You should call your provider if:
- You have fever of 100.5 degrees or higher or other signs and symptoms of an infection, such as shaking and chills
- Your side effects are not being controlled by your medications
- You have any other medical problems that concern you
We are open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you are having a problem, please call as soon as possible so that, if necessary, we can schedule an appointment for you. After-hours calls our main office number and the operator will put you through to the on-call doctor.
Q. Can I drive after treatment?
A. We recommend that you have someone drive you to your first and second treatments.
Q. Should I wear a mask or avoid public places?
A. When your immune system (white blood cells) is compromised you are more prone to infection. The best way to prevent an infection is for you, and those coming in contact with you, to wash your hands frequently. You can use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not accessible to you. You do not have to wear a mask, but it is wise to avoid contact with people you know are ill.
Q. Are there any vitamins or supplements that I should be taking?
A. A daily multi-vitamin and a well-balanced diet should be sufficient. It is not a good idea to take high doses of vitamins. Large doses of vitamins or minerals can be toxic or harmful in some instances and are counterproductive to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
Q. Where do you recommend getting a second opinion?
A. Patients are often afraid or intimidated to ask this because they do not want to offend their provider, but getting a second opinion is important for two reasons. It provides a second pathology review, which is crucial if you have been to a smaller hospital for your initial diagnosis. Also, not every provider can know everything about every condition. The field of pathology has grown by leaps and bounds, so having a few medical minds at work about your health can put your mind at rest.
Q. What can I do to preserve my fertility?
A. Unfortunately, if you don’t consider fertility preservation before the treatment begins, it’s too late. In some cases, there’s just no time to manage this issue, and in others it simply might not be possible to maintain fertility. But the question should be raised before beginning therapy, and the answers will vary depending upon the condition.
Q. Can I participate in a clinical trial?
A. Many people hesitate to ask about this because they’re afraid of being used as “guinea pigs” or otherwise nervous about things they have heard, but the reality of clinical trials generally doesn’t square with the myths. Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology offers clinical research opportunities to all of our patients who qualify. Our in-house research team will go through all the clinical research trial requirements and allow you to make the final decision if it is right for you.
Q. What should I do if I’m simply having trouble coming to grips with my diagnosis?
A. Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology focuses on a holistic approach to care encompassing physical, spiritual and mental health. FVHO offers social workers and licensed counselors as a part of our care team to assist you with any help that is needed.
Further, FVHO coordinates, sponsors and hosts many local support groups for our patients. Your patient navigators can assist you in connecting with the right support group.
Q. What is the goal of my treatment?
A. This is important to define up front, and it can range from defeating cancer entirely to slowing its growth and prolonging the patient’s life to improving quality of life for the patient’s remaining days. It’s important that patients are clear on what they’re getting out of their treatment.
Q. What will my treatment cost?
A. Our financial counselors work hand in hand with patients to ensure their care is the first concern. FVHO works with more than 18 care foundations to help provide coverage for care in addition to your insurance carrier. Further, FVHO works with over 20 patient assistance programs through the pharmaceutical industry to ensure you get the care you need.
Q. What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A. Nurse practitioners (NPs) work with physicians to see patients who are getting chemotherapy and manage their side effects, patients who are acutely ill and need to be seen immediately, patients who are visiting for follow-up appointments and patients new to the office.
Nurse practitioners hold bachelor degrees with nursing backgrounds, as well as a master’s degree in nursing. NPs at FVHO are also certified as Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers (APNP), meaning they can prescribe medications. Other credentials that FVHO NP hold include Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) and Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP).
Your life changes forever when you learn you have cancer, but not always in the way you imagine. Our patients often tell us about the transformations that they undergo through their cancer journeys: letting go of the ‘small stuff,’ gaining clarity on what’s important, learning to get the most out of every day. Cancer patients face a unique set of challenges, and in the face of those challenges they find support and strength in family, friends and their providers at Fox Valley Hematology & Oncology.
From knowing what questions to ask your provider o learning what resources are available in the community, the information that exists about cancer care can be overwhelming. Let our highly skilled staff of providers, nurses and support staff help guide you along your journey.