Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to treat cancer. While surgery and radiation therapy remove, kill, or damage cancer cells in a certain area, chemotherapy can work throughout the whole body, meaning it can kill cancer cells that have spread (metastasised) to parts of the body distant from the original (primary) tumour.
If possible, chemotherapy may be used to cure cancer, meaning that the cancer is destroyed – it goes away and does not come back. Unfortunately there are no guarantees and though cure may be the goal, it does not always work out that way. It often takes many years to know if a person’s cancer is really cured. If cure is not possible, the goal may be to control the disease by shrinking tumours and/or stopping the cancer from growing and spreading. This can help patients feel better and live longer. Chemotherapy can also be used to ease the symptoms caused by cancer.
At the San, Chemotherapy treatments are administered by our specialised oncology nurses in the Poon Day Infusion Centre, which has been purpose-designed to maximise patient comfort.
The Poon Day Infusion Centre includes an oncology pharmacy, allowing pharmacists to be readily available while chemotherapy infusions are given. Oncology pharmacists specialise in the drugs that are used to treat cancers. Their training and expert knowledge of medications means they play an important role in educating other health professionals and particularly patients, and caregivers, who find themselves in an unexpected and often confronting situation.
Oncology pharmacists take medication histories and visit patients at each of their treatments, monitoring their responses to their treatment. They are also available to answer any concerns or questions while the patient is at home. Despite cancer treatments becoming more targeted and personalised, side effects still occur and our pharmacists are key resources in providing supportive care to manage and relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, pain, constipation and diarrhoea. Medications and personalised information and advice are given as required, including non-drug strategies, to help each patient complete their treatment regime. Assistance and dispensed medication are also provided for anticoagulation, infections and many other conditions related to diagnosis.
Paxman scalp cooling machines
Our Paxman Scalp Cooling machines give cancer patients a better chance of retaining their hair despite chemotherapy. For many, it is the loss of their hair that defines them as a cancer patient and this technology can drastically reduce patient stress associated with treatment. San patients can wear a special cap which cool the scalp to 17 degrees prior to, during and after their infusions. Patients are evaluated to determine those with the best chance of retaining their hair, due to factors including chemotherapy type and hair thickness and condition. The cooling system may not work for everyone, but research has shown reduced hair loss in a significant number of patients.