(iii) Chemotherapy- & Biologics-Related Questions


Some patients with colorectal cancer will already have small amounts of cancer that have spread outside the colon or rectum and cannot therefore be removed by surgery. Undetectable areas of cancer outside the colon or rectum are referred to as micrometastases and cannot be detected with any of the currently available tests. The presence of micrometastases causes relapses that occur after treatment with surgery alone. Surgery is only one component in the treatment of colorectal cancer and is often followed by adjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy administered after surgery) to cleanse the body of micrometastases. Other patients may have macrometastases (areas of cancer outside the colon or rectum that are detectable by imagery) discovered synchronously (at the same time) with their primary tumor. These patients are considered stage IV and surgical removal of the primary may not be an option for these patients. Instead, proceeding directly to systemic therapy [the administration of drugs intravenously (or orally) for the treatment of the cancer throughout the body] may be in the best interest of the patient.

Whether you are a stage IV patient or a patient accessing adjuvant therapy, the prospect of having to endure multiple cycles of chemotherapy can be daunting to even the most resilient of patients. If, however, patients are prepared and well informed about the drugs they are administered, the experience can be less frightening and more therapeutic.

In addition to the set of treatment-related questions appearing above, a more condensed and concise list of chemotherapy-related questions can be accessed and adhered to when engaging in a conversation with your physician (who is usually a medical oncologist) about the administration of chemotherapy and biologics. Feel free to add or delete questions to the following list:

Click to print questions

Chemotherapy & Biologics-Related List of Questions

  • May I tape record our conversation?
  • What can I expect from my therapy?
  • What are the names of the drugs that will be used in my treatment? (Folfox, folfiri, 5FU, oxaliplatin, leucovorin, irinotecan, Xeloda, or Mytomycin C)
  • Is there evidence that they are more effective than other chemotherapy drugs?
  • How many treatments will I need?
  • How will the treatments be given?
  • Will I be able to go home afterwards?
  • What will I feel like after my treatments?
  • Will I be able to work? Will I be able to take care of my spouse and children?
  • What are the possible side effects of these treatments and how long do they last?
  • Will my hair fall out?
  • Will I be nauseous? If so, how can that be treated?
  • Will I be fatigued? How will you address that?
  • Will I get mouth sores? If so, how will that be addressed?
  • Is there anything I can do to lessen the side effects?
  • If I am taking chemotherapy, can I eat all kinds of foods?
  • Can I drink alcohol?
  • Can the cancer spread, even though I am on chemotherapy?
  • Will chemotherapy affect my sex life?
  • Will chemotherapy affect my fertility?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • What are the chances for remission or for a longer life?
  • Will I be able to take multi-vitamins or anti-oxidant therapy during chemotherapy?
  • Do I qualify for biological therapy in conjunction with chemotherapy?
  • If so, which do you recommend? (avastin, erbitux or vectibix)
  • If oxaliplatin is recommended, will I be accessing magnesium/calcium infusions before and after oxaliplatin infusion?