Having chemotherapy treatment for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer

You may have a combination of chemotherapy drugs as cycles of treatment into your bloodstream.

Types of chemotherapy

It is most common to have 2 or more chemotherapy drugs together. You might hear this called combination chemotherapy. Using 2 or more drugs together often works better than using one drug. The most common drugs are:

  • Cisplatin
  • Fluorouracil (5-FU)

Other chemotherapy drugs you might have include:

  • Carboplatin
  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • Etoposide

When you have chemotherapy

You usually have the chemotherapy drugs every 3 or 4 weeks. Each 3 or 4 week period is known as one cycle of treatment. If the treatment forms part of a combination with radiotherapy and/or surgery you will receive at least 2 cycles. If you are having chemotherapy alone you will probably have between 3 and 4 cycles to begin with.

If your treatment is working and you aren't having too many side effects you will probably go on to have up to 6 cycles. So the complete chemotherapy course can take 4 to 6 months. Your doctor will decide the exact number of treatments you have.

How you have chemotherapy

You usually have treatment into your bloodstream (intravenously).

You might have treatment through a long plastic tube that goes into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

  • central line
  • PICC line
  • portacath

If you don't have a central line you might have treatment through a thin short tube (a cannula). The cannula goes into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.

Where you have chemotherapy

You usually have treatment into your bloodstream at the cancer day clinic. You might sit in a chair for a few hours so it’s a good idea to take things in to do. For example, newspapers, books or electronic devices can all help to pass the time. You can usually bring a friend or family member with you.

You have some types of chemotherapy over several days. You might be able to have some drugs through a small portable pump that you take home.

For some types of chemotherapy you have to stay in a hospital ward. This could be overnight or for a couple of days.

Some hospitals may give certain chemotherapy treatments to you at home. Your doctor or nurse can tell you more about this.

Before you start chemotherapy

You need to have blood tests to make sure it’s safe to start treatment. You have these either a few days before or on the day you start treatment. You have blood tests before each round or cycle of treatment.

Side effects

Common chemotherapy side effects include:

  • feeling sick
  • loss of appetite
  • losing weight
  • feeling very tired
  • a lower resistance to infections
  • bleeding and bruising easily
  • diarrhoea or constipation
  • hair loss
Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have signs of infection. These include a temperature above 37.5C or below 36C, or generally feeling unwell. Infections can make you very unwell very quickly.

Side effects depend on:

  • which drugs you have
  • how much of each drug you have
  • how you react

Tell your treatment team about any side effects that you have.

Most side effects only last for a few days or so. Your treatment team can help to manage any side effects that you have.

When you go home

Chemotherapy for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer can be difficult to cope with. Tell your doctor or nurse about any problems or side effects that you have. The nurse will give you telephone numbers to call if you have any problems at home.

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