Chemotherapy is a widely used treatment for cancer that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in your body. The term chemotherapy refers to a wide range of drugs that prevents cancer cells from dividing and growing.

Cancer spreads because cancer cells grow and multiply quickly. By targeting these types of cells, chemotherapy drugs aim to put cancer into remission or at least slow its progression.

microscopic picture of chemotherapy killing fast-growing cancer cells in the body of elderly patient of skilled nursing facility

Many different chemotherapy drugs are available, and they can be used alone or in combination, depending on the type and stage of cancer. Some chemotherapy drugs can be taken in pill form, given as a shot, applied to the body as a cream, or placed in the body directly where the cancer is or was located. Most often, however, chemotherapy is given intravenously, as an infusion into a vein, In this case, a device, such as a catheter, port, or pump, may be surgically inserted before treatment, to make receiving chemotherapy easier.

Chemotherapy treatments typically are given at an outpatient chemotherapy center, which may be part of a larger hospital. Treatments are given in cycles, with periods of rest and recovery after the drug is administered. A cycle can be anywhere from one to four weeks, and likely will be repeated for four to six cycles before treatment is considered complete. Administering the actual chemotherapy can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.

Chemotherapy is known to have significant side effects during and after treatment. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, fatigue, fever, mouth sores, and more. It also can cause longer-lasting problems, such as lung damage, heart problems, infertility, kidney problems, and nerve damage.

Depending on the type and stage of cancer, chemotherapy is used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments, such as surgery and radiation.

Outpatient Chemotherapy for Seniors

Outpatient chemotherapy for seniors allows for people who require chemotherapy to continue receiving it. If a senior is a resident at a nursing home or long-term facility with skilled nursing, aftercare is given priority by the medical staff.

The resident is transported to a facility to receive chemotherapy treatments, then returned to the skilled nursing facility. Once the resident returns, aftercare management begins. Medical staff is trained to take care of those who are receiving chemotherapy. Keeping the resident as comfortable as possible, and offering extra care is vital at this time. 

The skilled nursing staff at the nursing home become like an extended family to the residents. When receiving chemotherapy, it is essential to reassure the resident that they will get the required care upon returning to the facility.  

Outpatient chemotherapy for seniors allows for treatment and care with all aspects of the procedures. The after-effects can disrupt the typical living habits and routines, and the resident must be kept as stress-free as possible. 

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