When is cancer drug treatment provided?

Treatment with cancer drugs may happen before or after other cancer treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy.  Cancer drug treatment which is given before surgery or other treatment is known as “neoadjuvant” treatment.  Cancer drug treatment which is given after surgery or other treatment is known as “adjuvant”. 

Each patient will be advised by their doctor whether they will require treatment with cancer drugs.  The goal of the treatment will depend on the nature of the patient’s cancer.  The goal of treatment may be to kill cells, shrink cells, or slow down the process of cell growth or cell division.

Patients who need treatment with cancer drugs will usually be referred to the medical oncology consultant by another consultant, such as a surgeon.  The medical oncologist will decide on the best treatment plan based on different things like the type of cancer and the stage of cancer. The treatment plan may also be called a treatment regimen or protocol.

The patient will be told what type of drugs they will require, how they will be provided, how often they will be provided (the “cycle”), what side effects they may experience and what alternatives are available to them. 

Patients will usually have the opportunity to talk with an oncology nurse who is specially trained in providing information to them about their treatment and how it might affect them.  Patients will receive leaflets about the type of treatment they will receive.  Patients will also be given contact details for their hospital in case they have any problems with their treatment or side effects.

Different cancers may respond to different types of treatment and each patient’s treatment plan will be different.  After the treatment has been discussed and the patient has had an opportunity to ask questions and these questions have been answered to their satisfaction, the patient will be asked to sign their consent for treatment.