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Managing Your Medical Care: Breast Cancer: Once A Treatment Decision Is Made

If You Are Going To Have Chemotherapy

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Keep in mind that chemotherapy is much more tolerable than it used to be, and that side effects can be controlled much better than previously.
  • It is preferable to schedule chemotherapy treatments for Friday afternoons to give yourself the weekend to recover without losing work or using sick days.
  • Schedule a dental check up. Oral infections can worsen the effects of chemotherapy.  (See: Oral Care 101: How To Keep Your Mouth, Gums And Throat Healthy)
  • Learn about the side effects that frequently occur with the particular drug(s) and how to eliminate or minimize them.
    • Your medical oncologist is a good source for this information. You can obtain additional information about the drugs used in your treatment from such reputable web sites as The American Cancer Society offsite link or American Society of Clinical Oncologists, offsite link. Type in the name of the drug(s) that will be used. Be sure to ask your doctor any questions that come up from your research.
    • Get prescriptions for medications that may minimize or help you cope with possible side effects. Prescriptions don't cost anything until you have them filled. If you have the prescriptions, you can fill them without delay if the need arises. 
    • For information about dealing with various side effects, see Chemotherapy Side Effects And What To Do About Them
  • Ask your doctor if there are medications, supplements, herbs and/or vitamins that the doctor will want you to discontinue for a period prior to or during chemotherapy.
  • If you are advised to stop any medications, let the doctor who gave you the prescription know in case you should be doing something else while you are not allowed to take the drug.
    • If you use recreational drugs, let your doctor know. They may affect chemotherapy
    • If you smoke, stopping can help improve the body’s response to treatment, and lessen complications and side effects. If you quit permanently, stopping can decrease the risk of recurrence and enhance survival.
  • If you will have a lymph node removed, How To Prevent And Control Lymphedema shows how to help prevent lymphedema (swelling of the lymph glands). The preventive steps are well worth taking. Lymphedema is temporary, but can last for a while. Lymphedema is not life threatening, but it is not fun. (For information about lymphedema, click here.)
  • If you are at risk for losing your hair:
    • Decide if you will want to wear a wig. If so, now is the time to get one to match your hair or at least save a sample. Many insurance companies cover the cost of wigs. Free and low cost wigs are available.
    • Consider other ways of coping such as shaving your head or wearing hats and scarves or even sewing bangs into a scarf.
    • Instead of waiting for hair to fall out, consider cutting it off. Some women cut their hair in a ceremony with their partner or friends.
  • If you want to have children in the future, ask if a treatment could affect your ability to have them. If so, consider freezing your eggs. See: Children: Preserving The Ability To Have.
  • If chemotherapy will be given in a facility or the doctor’s office:
    • Consider taking a tour of the area where chemotherapy will be administered and any other location where you will be spending time. This way you will know what to expect. You'll also get a better idea of what to bring with you to make yourself comfortable during a chemotherapy infusion.
    • It may make it easier for you if you take a family member or friend to the first treatment. After that it may be easier if you go to treatments alone. Going alone makes going for treatment more like going to a standard doctor's appointment. You will likely find other people going through the same treatment with whom to have an informal support group.
  • Schedule doctor appointments for your convenience.
    • An appointment early in the day or at the beginning of that part of the day when the doctor sees patients generally gets you in and out quickly. Doctors' schedules tend to back up as the day progresses.
    • If you have appointments with different doctors and/or tests coming up, consider scheduling them for the same day, or only setting doctor appointments for the same day every week.
  • if you have children and haven’t told them yet about your condition and/or treatment, now is the time to do so in an age appropriate manner. To learn more, click here

Transportation to and from treatment and medical appointments

Think about how you are going to get to and from appointments. If needed, American Cancer Society can help arrange transportation with its list of volunteer drivers. Call 800.ACS.2345. 

The more notice you give the Society, the more likely it can find a volunteer to fill your needs.

The Society can also point you to available public transportation in your area if necessary.

Side Effects

To learn about chemotherapy effects in general and what to do about them, click here.


Ask your doctor about changes to start making in your diet to build your system with nutrients that the treatment may affect. The doctor may recommend you speak with a nutritionist/dietitian. Perhaps you should also be taking a multi-vitamin and/or supplements.

Stock up on your comfort foods, including some in your freezer that you can defrost as needed. When you freeze foods for this period, make the portions smaller than usual for those occasions when you don't feel like eating a lot.


Check your health insurance policy to determine how much, if at all, you will be out of pocket because of your treatment. If you don't have health insurance, start thinking about how to pay for the treatment. For helpful information, see:

For more information about medical care:

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