Before chemotherapy

Post-operative treatment is planned individually for each patient depending on the cancer subtype, size and any lymph node metastasis. Drug therapy options after surgery include chemotherapy and hormone therapy. For patients with the HER2-positive subtype, chemotherapy is also combined with antibody therapy such as trastuzumab.
The start time for chemotherapy treatments is determined at the oncologist’s appointment at the Department of Oncology. Chemotherapy usually begins within 1 to 2 months after the operation, once the surgical wounds have healed. Any medical statements needed for long-term benefits from KELA (the Social Insurance Institution of Finland), such as statement B for sick leave and special reimbursement of medicines, are prepared at the oncologist’s appointment.

The surgery unit is in charge of patient care and answering any questions until the patient has come in for the initial Department of Oncology visit.

During chemotherapy

Chemotherapy treatments are carried out as an outpatient clinic procedure. Treatments are usually administered a total of six times at three-week intervals. A treatment is usually an intravenous infusion lasting about two hours. There are 3 to 4 patients in the treatment room.

Chemotherapeutic agents inhibit the growth or division of cancer cells. They have adverse effects because they also affect healthy cells. Such side effects vary from person to person and depend on the treatment administered. A nurse will review chemotherapy side effects and their self-care with the patient. The patient’s condition will be monitored by a nurse while treatment is being administered. Patients usually feel fine when they are discharged.

Between chemotherapy treatments

A patient undergoing chemotherapy can live a fairly normal life during the treatment period depending on how she feels. It usually takes about 3 to 7 days to recover from each treatment, and then the patient feels better. Gentle exercise and outdoor activities are recommended if the patient feels well enough. It is important to eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids. Small snacks between meals are recommended and help prevent nausea, along with anti-nausea drugs. Attention to oral hygiene and bowel function is also important. Alcohol should be avoided and natural supplements are prohibited. Calcium and vitamin D or multivitamin products from the pharmacy may be used during the treatments. Other vitamins should be discussed in advance with the treating physician.

All symptom-relieving medicines (such as for nausea, pain, heartburn
and diarrhea) can and should be used.
Patients are more vulnerable to infections during the treatments. A patient who develops a fever of more than 38 degrees Celsius or suddenly feels unwell in general should go to the local regional emergency room without a referral. The Cancer Center has no emergency clinic. The patient’s primary nurse can be reached by phone during business hours as needed.

Adjuvant chemotherapy treatment guidelines for breast cancer patients.pdfAdjuvant chemotherapy treatment guidelines for breast cancer patients.pdf

Changes in mental performance during and after cancer treatments.pdfChanges in mental performance during and after cancer treatments.pdf

The importance of a healthy lifestyle after breast cancer surgery