Oral chemotherapy can make cancer treatment a little easier.
A cancer diagnosis is never convenient, and traveling to and from the hospital to receive intravenous chemotherapy treatments can be a real drain on patients’ time and morale. Now, for certain patients, KentuckyOne Health offers oral chemotherapy — a treatment option that frees patients from long sessions of infusion therapy.
“Like traditional chemotherapy, oral chemotherapy is used to destroy cancer cells, but it does so through a pill you can swallow,” said Scott Pierce, MD, hematologist and oncologist at KentuckyOne Health. “Oral chemotherapy is considered just as effective as the traditional version and has the benefit of allowing patients to undergo treatment at home.”
Cancer patients who opt for oral chemotherapy also don’t have to deal with being hooked up to an IV, which is a necessary measure for traditional chemotherapy that can cause discomfort or anxiety for patients.
No Magic Pill
The ability to undergo treatment from the comfort of one’s home has turned oral chemotherapy into a very popular option. However, this method of treatment isn’t without its drawbacks, including:
- Strict instructions. The burden of remembering how and when to take oral chemotherapy falls squarely on the shoulders of the patient. Patients must also remember to avoid certain foods, drinks, vitamins and supplements when taking the medication.
- Pricey pills. Oral chemotherapy can be expensive and isn’t always covered by insurance plans. Because of this, it’s important for people to check with their medical insurance before choosing this line of treatment.
- Same old symptoms. The side effects of oral chemotherapy are comparable to those of traditional chemotherapy. Fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, diarrhea, weight loss, hair loss, bleeding gums, skin changes, low blood count, loss of menstrual periods and compromised immune system are all possible.
“Oral chemotherapy may be used alone or in combination with radiation therapy, surgery or immunotherapy,” Dr. Pierce said. “Talk with your physician to see if oral chemotherapy might be an option for your type of cancer.”
Handle with Care
As with most prescription medications, it’s extremely important to follow your physician’s directions when embarking on an oral chemotherapy treatment program.
Certain oral chemotherapy drugs are hazardous. Follow your doctor’s instructions for handling hazardous medications with care, which may mean wearing safety gloves, storing pills in a certain location or packaging, and being extra cautious about the other medications or supplements you take, even if they come over-the-counter.
This article originally appeared in the 2017 Fall edition of One Health Magazine. Sign up for your free subscription.