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Chemotherapy

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This Navigator topic is your stepping stone to finding quality, current information on chemotherapy treatment for early breast cancer, from a range of reputable sources. This information is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking.

It is aimed at women who have been diagnosed with early breast cancer and are faced with making decisions about treatment options including chemotherapy. Having access to quality information to help you make informed decisions is vital.

 


Last Updated: 10 June, 2021 3:56 pm

When making decisions about chemotherapy treatment, you may wish to consider the following questions. These questions may help you decide about the treatment of your breast cancer. You might want the answers to some of the questions straight away, while some may become important later on. You can either ask these questions directly to your oncologist or other medical specialist, or use them as a guide to put together your own questions.

  • What is the goal of chemotherapy for my breast cancer?
  • Which chemotherapy drug(s) do you recommend for me? Why?
  • How do these drugs work?
  • How successful is chemotherapy for my type of cancer?
  • Are there alternatives to chemotherapy to treat my breast cancer?
  • What are the likely consequences if I do not have chemotherapy?
  • Will I be able to meet with my oncologist before treatment to plan what will happen?
  • How will the drugs be given to me?
  • Who will be giving me these treatments?
  • When will it start?
  • How often will the treatments be given?
  • How long will each treatment take?
  • How long will the whole series of treatments last?
  • How much will this treatment cost? Will I be out of pocket at all?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • How do I manage side effects?
  • Are the side effects temporary or permanent?
  • Will chemotherapy affect my fertility?
  • If protecting my fertility is important to me, can you refer me to a fertility preservation specialist?
  • Are there any special precautions I need to take while on chemotherapy?

There are few organisations that focus solely on chemotherapy. You will find the majority of useful resources about chemotherapy under the online and offline resources section of this navigator. The links below will direct you to the home page of organisations where you can search their site independently. Please note that not all trials are available in all hospitals. Speak with your treating team for advice.

My Hospitals (AUS)

My Hospitals is an Australian Government website aimed at informing the community about hospitals' performance. On this website you'll find information about a range of hospital services including information about cancer services. You can use the "Search for a service or condition" tab to find hospitals providing breast cancer services.

Cancer Council Victoria - Treatment Centres (AUS)

A webpage on Cancer Council Victoria's website listing all the major cancer treatment centres across Victoria.

Breast Cancer Trials (AUS)

Breast Cancer Trials (formerly The Australian and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group) conducts breast cancer clinical trials in order to identify improved treatments and treatment strategies for breast cancer. Their website has information on clinical trials and how you may be able to participate.

Clinical Trials Australia (AUS)

Cancer Trials Australia (CTA) is a Melbourne-based, not-for-profit service organisation that conducts cancer clinical trials. Its members include Melbourne Health, Peter Mac, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Western Health. It includes a list of clinical trials open for patient participation at Victorian hospitals who are members of CTA.

Victorian Cancer Trials Link (AUS)

The Victorian Cancer Trials Link is a searchable database on the website of Cancer Council Victoria, of all cancer clinical trials being conducted in Victoria. It can be used by consumers. If you want to know about or participate in clinical trials relevant to you, you can use this website to find a trial that "matches" your specific diagnosis and treatment situation.

This list provides links to key pieces of evidence-based information about chemotherapy for early breast cancer. The list includes downloadable fact sheets, pamphlets, or PDFs and web pages.

Westmead Breast Cancer Institute - Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer 2017 (AUS)

A brochure on chemotherapy for breast cancer produced by The Westmead Breast Cancer Institute in NSW. It discusses how chemotherapy is administered, some of the common drugs used and the common side effects that may be experienced.

Breast Cancer Network Australia (BCNA) - My Journey online tool (AUS)

Formerly the My Journey Kit, this tool is now online. Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your own situation. Find information on chemotherapy under the treatment section.

Cancer Council Victoria - Chemotherapy (AUS)

Although not breast cancer specific, this page clearly explains how chemotherapy works, what to expect, and side effects to watch for. Use 'Download PDF' button at the bottom of the page for the booklet 'Understanding chemotherapy' (described below).

Cancer Council Australia - Understanding Chemotherapy 2020 (AUS)

This booklet explains how chemotherapy works, side effects and gives advice on making treatment decisions. Also available in hard copy.

Chemotherapy - Cancer Survivor Guide - (AUS)

In episode 3 of this podcast Medical Oncologist, Dr Craig Carden, talks about what to expect from your first round of chemotherapy.

eviQ - Cancer information for patients (AUS)

Short Australian videos explaining a range of aspects relating to cancer treatment. Several of these relate to chemotherapy and its effects.

eviQ - Translated patient information sheets (AUS)

Printable patient information sheets covering a range of topics relating to chemotherapy and its effects. Translated into Arabic, Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, French, Greek, Italian, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese.

Breastcancer.org - Chemotherapy (US)

A web page on chemotherapy on the website of US breastcancer.org’s website. In addition to looking at how chemotherapy works; chemotherapy medicines and combinations; what to expect and managing the side effects of chemotherapy, this site has a section exploring fears related to having chemotherapy. Scroll down for a link to a useful fact sheet on 'Community Member tips for chemotherapy treatment'.

National Cancer Institute - Chemotherapy to treat cancer 2015 (US)

This web page, although not breast cancer specific, provides clear information on how chemotherapy works, its effects, and practical information such as dietary needs and managing work. Keep in mind that this is US-focused, so financial information does not apply to Australia.

Macmillan - Chemotherapy (UK)

Easy to read information. Explains how chemotherapy works, common chemotherapy drugs and regimens (combinations of chemotherapy drugs) that may be used, and their side effects.

Counterpart - Heart health: links to cancer treatment 2020 (AUS)

Presented in collaboration with the Heart Foundation, Professor Liza Thomas outlines the long-term impacts of cancer treatment on heart health. With Julie Anne Mitchell. Hosted by Kellie Holland.

American Cancer Society - Chemotherapy Side Effects Worksheet (US)

A worksheet to help you document the side affects you may experience from chemotherapy in order to be able to discuss them with your doctor.

Cancer Council Victoria - Hair loss (AUS)

This web page explains the reasons for hair loss and gives tips to help you manage it. Scroll to the bottom of the page for a link to the wig service, where you will also find videos on wearing wigs and tying scarves.

Counterpart - Peripheral neuropathy 2019 (AUS)

Peripheral neuropathy (damage to nerves in hands, feet and lower legs) is a side effect of some cancer treatments, particularly chemotherapy treatment. Consultant Medical Oncologist Shirley Wong explains why it happens, risk factors and what can be done to help. Recorded at Counterpart Resource Centre, Melbourne, on 20 February 2019.

Counterpart - Cognitive effects associated with cancer treatments webinar 2019 (VIC)

In this webinar recording, Dr Adrian Schembri discusses the relationships between cancer, chemotherapy and brain function in this presentation held at Counterpart (formerly known as BreaCan).

Cancer Council NSW - Brain fog and cancer 2018 (AUS)

In episode 14 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and medical oncologist Professor Janette Vardy discuss her research into 'chemo brain'.

Counterpart - Cancer Fatigue: What does the evidence say? 2016 (AUS)

Elizabeth Pearson, Occupational Therapist, PhD, discusses the evidence for managing cancer-related fatigue. 2018

Cancer Council NSW - Managing cancer fatigue 2017 (AUS)

In episode 3 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and Dr Haryana Dhillon discuss ways of managing cancer fatigue.

Cancer Council NSW - Appetite loss and nausea 2017 (AUS)

In episode 7 of the podcast 'The thing about cancer', Julie McCrossin and dietitian Merran Findlay talk about ways to nourish your body during cancer treatment.

NPS - Medicine Finder (AUS)

Use the search box to find Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) sheets on drugs you have been prescribed. These explain the use, administration and side effects of each drug.

This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and CDs that are not readily available online. They may be available for loan through Counterpart’s Resource Centre or may be sourced independently online or through book stores. You can access the Counterpart library online or call the Resource Centre directly on 1300 781 500.

The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer: How to Feel Empowered and Take Control 2018 (UK)

Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Dr Liz O'Riordan both have medical backgrounds, and were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. This book describes the experiences from diagnosis to life after treatment, with their unique personal experiences.

Vermillion, 2018

View Details Online

Breast Cancer: Taking Control 2010 (AUS)

Written by an Australian Oncologist, this book includes a comprehensive chapter on chemotherapy and developing treatment plans. It also examines the issues involved in determining by how much chemotherapy may improve an individual’s chances of survival.

Boyages J, Boycare Publishing, 2010

View Details Online

Looking After Yourself During Chemotherapy 2009 (AUS)

A DVD outlining practical strategies for looking after yourself during chemotherapy. It is available in eight different languages.

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, 2004

View Details Online

Dr Susan Love's Breast Book 2015 (6th ed.) (US)

Susan Love’s updated book deals almost entirely with breast cancer. The section on treatments is very thorough and the explanation of chemotherapy is detailed and easy to understand. It also includes a chapter on making decisions regarding treatment that explains some of the important terms to understand about risk reduction.

Love, S M & Lindsey, K., Perseus Publishing, 2015.

View Details Online

The following websites include personal stories in both written and in video format, and include blogs and online forums. The information contained in these links reflects the personal experiences of individuals and does not constitute evidence-based research or information.

Counterpart (formerly BreaCan) (AUS)

Counterpart is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with breast or gynaecological cancers. You can speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves.

Liz O'Riordan - Chemotherapy 2015 (UK)

Liz O'Riordan, a UK breast surgeon who blogs about her own breast cancer at Breast Surgeon With Breast Cancer, describes her experience of chemotherapy. Also, see Liz's book under 'Offline Resources'.

Magsblog: a breast cancer experience in cartoons (AUS)

Personal cartoon-style blog of French Australian Magelie Lameloise who was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 33 with a young baby. She was treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy and lumpectomy. Includes a link to download her ebook 'And then I had breast cancer'.

Navigating Cancer and Blood Disorders - A Summary of My Chemo Experience (US)

On this website, an American woman Beth gives a detailed and practical written account of her experience of chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Network Australia network (AUS)

The chemotherapy section of BCNA's online network for those affected by breast cancer. It includes discussions by people who have experienced chemotherapy.

Breastcancer.org - Forum: Chemotherapy - Before, During and After (US)

A US based breast cancer forum including discussions about chemotherapy before, during and after treatment from women who have had, or are having, the experience.