There is no average chemotherapy cycle, because the length of chemotherapy cycles is dependent on a huge number of factors, including the type of cancer, the drugs used in treatment, the patient's response to treatment, and the goal of the therapy. Patients preparing for chemotherapy should anticipate three to six months of chemotherapy treatment and may go through four to eight cycles during this time period. When discussing chemotherapy with an oncologist, patients can get more information about the specifics of their treatment.
A chemotherapy cycle is defined as a course where the patient takes a series of medications and then takes a break to allow the body to recover. Chemotherapy medications are very harsh and patients cannot be on them continuously. Sometimes, all the medications in a cycle can be given in a single day, while in other cases, it can take multiple days or even weeks to administer the chemotherapy medications. The length of a cycle varies from cancer to cancer and patient to patient, and the drug regimen also plays a role in how long it takes to complete a cycle. The time needed for a break is variable, and may vary during treatment.
Chemotherapy administration typically takes place in a clinical setting where the patient can be monitored for signs of complications. The patient will be advised on how long the treatment should take and how long the patient will need to stay in the clinic. Sometimes it takes only a minute to take a pill or get an injection, but the patient may need to wait for several hours while the medication is metabolized. For some chemotherapy treatments, hospitalization for several days may be necessary.
During a cycle of chemotherapy, the patient's health will be monitored. This information is used to see if the treatment is working as expected, and to determine when the patient's next cycle can start. If a patient does not recover during the period allotted for a break, it may be necessary to extend the chemotherapy cycle to give the patient more time. This will push back the projected end date for the treatment, as well. For treatments designed to be palliative rather than curative, the cycles may be adjusted to keep the patient as comfortable as possible.
It is difficult to made predictions about chemotherapy when patients start. Everyone responds differently to the medications used in chemotherapy, and consequently, it is hard to know how well a patient will do. For some patients, it may be possible to complete cycles in a relatively short period of time and bounce back rapidly between doses. For others, the medication may leave the patient exhausted and ill, requiring an extended break. During a chemotherapy cycle, it is important to be alert to signs of complications like infections, and patients can also benefit from things like anti-nausea medications to manage discomfort associated with the medications.