Medical oncologists evaluate the patient in conjunction with other doctors, such as a surgeon and radiation oncologist to determine the most appropriate drug combinations to treat the cancer. Medical oncologists will monitor patient progress during and after treatment. They can also assist in symptom management and pain control, as well as recommend community resources that may be of benefit to you.
The following treatment methods aim to eliminate cancer cells in different ways, and are often used in combination with surgery and/or radiation therapy.
- Biological Therapy
- Hormone Therapy
- Targeted Therapy
The medical oncologist often coordinates the activities of a patient's treatment team.
What to Expect
Your medical oncology team is dedicated to making sure your treatment is as seamless and stress-free as possible.
During your first appointment, your medical oncologist will:
- Review your results from any tests or biopsies, including your blood work
- Discuss your family history of cancer
- Explain the personalized treatment plan he/ she would recommend for your type of cancer, including the option for clinical trials.
- Arrange for other tests and procedures as indicated.
If your treatment includes chemotherapy, a teaching visit will be arranged to discuss what to expect during your chemotherapy.
Preparing for Your First Appointment
Your Guthrie physician will need to review any tests, procedures, or treatments that you may have had. If you are already a Guthrie patient, your physician has access to your electronic medical record. If you have had treatment elsewhere, you will need to bring the following to your first appointment. If you wish, our team can assist you in gathering this information to prepare for the first appointment.
This is a description written by your physician detailing your medical problems and the treatment you have received. A medical summary will be needed from your primary physician and any specialist you have seen.
Please be sure to bring a list of all medications you take, including those prescribed by physicians and those you buy over the counter. This should include any vitamins or herbal products you take. The medication list should indicate the following information:
- the name of each medicine.
- the dose you take.
- how often you take it.
Diagnostic tests include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, bone scans, stress tests, echocardiograms and electrocardiograms. The images may be on disc or on film.
To obtain radiology tests:
- Contact the hospital or radiology center where the images were taken.
- Request for the images and a written report on disc. If the images are not available on disc, then ask for the actual films.
Pathology Slides from Any Biopsies or Surgical Procedures
If you had a biopsy or surgery at another facility, please contact that office to request slides and a copy of the written report.
We will need the name of your health insurance company, along with other information that appears on your health insurance card. In addition, please bring a photo ID. If you are covered by more than one insurer, please bring both cards.
Other Ways to Prepare for Your Appointment Include:
- Arrange for a friend or family member to come with you. You will receive a lot of information and it is helpful to have someone else there to take notes.
- Write down any questions you may think of before your first visit. Bring these with you. All questions are welcomed.
What can chemotherapy achieve?
Some kinds of cancer can actually be cured with chemotherapy. Many others can be put in remission, which means shrunken partially and prevented from growing for a period of time. When the tumor shrinks so much that it cannot be detected by examination and x-rays, it is called a “complete remission.” A complete remission does not necessarily mean cure.
How long will treatments last?
There are few hard and fast rules on how often chemotherapy is given, as every tumor is different. Every chemotherapy treatment is tailored to fit your disease. Many kinds of chemotherapy are given every three weeks, but sometimes a better result can come from smaller doses every week. Your physician will discuss these options with you before starting treatment.
Who administers chemotherapy?
At Guthrie, chemotherapy is administered by nurses who are trained by the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) in chemotherapy and biotherapy.
When will we know if the chemotherapy is working?
Your physician will outline a treatment plan with you and will do follow up tests (ex: CT scan, x-ray, MRI, PET-CT) at different intervals during your therapy. This will vary from patient to patient.
Will chemotherapy make me sick?
Nausea can be an uncomfortable side effect of chemotherapy. However, newer anti-nausea drugs have been developed that greatly minimize nausea and vomiting. Also, not all types of chemotherapy cause nausea and vomiting. Your physician will choose the most effective anti-nausea medication according to the type of chemotherapy you receive.
Will I lose my hair?
Hair loss is a temporary side effect of some chemotherapy agents. Your physician will discuss this and other side effects with you. If your chemotherapy causes hair loss or hair thinning, this usually happens about two weeks after you begin treatment.
What can I do about my hair loss?
You can obtain wigs/turbans from many sources. Your nurse or navigator will provide you with a list of resources.
What can I do about loss of appetite?
Loss of appetite is a normal side effect of chemotherapy and sometimes is the result of your disease. Chemotherapy may cause your favorite foods to become tasteless or even disliked. It is recommended to make every effort to eat balanced meals on a regular basis even when you prefer not to eat or do not feel hungry.
What do I do for fatigue and weakness?
Fatigue and weakness are common side effects of chemotherapy or the cancer itself. Try to continue to eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest. Try to pace yourself while maintaining your normal activities. Allow yourself time to rest. Inform your doctor or nurse if the fatigue persists or worsens.
Do you offer chemotherapy at a location close to me?
Chemotherapy through Guthrie is done at several locations throughout New York and Pennsylvania, including Corning and Owego in New York and Sayre, Towanda and Wellsboro in Pennsylvania. For your convenience, Guthrie medical oncologists are available for new patient and follow-up visits in many locations, including Big Flats, Corning, Ithaca and Owego in New York and Sayre, Towanda and Wellsboro in Pennsylvania.
Transportation is a problem for me. Are there organizations to help me get to chemotherapy appointments?
Yes. The American Cancer Society (ACS) may be able to help. Depending on where you live, the ACS offers Road to Recovery, a program that provides free transportation for patients to cancer treatments. For information about Road to Recovery, call 1-800-227-2345, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.