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Having chemotherapy treatment

Find out how and where you have chemotherapy treatment for nasal and paranasal sinus cancer and about possible side effects.

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)
  • Gemcitabine (Gemzar)

How you have treatment

You have the chemotherapy drugs through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

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. 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.

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 newspapers, books or electronic devices to 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.

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 any signs of infection such as a temperature higher than 37.5C 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.

Information and help