Montessa Lee

Dr. Vincent Lam

In this third episode of Hope With Answers: Chemotherapy Series, Montessa Lee is joined by Dr. Vincent Lam of Johns Hopkins Medical Center to discuss the definition and side effects of chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer. They talk about minimizing side effects and the new treatment option that has been recently developed to help protect cells from the negative impact of chemotherapy. They also discuss why it’s important for patients to have an open dialogue with their doctor regarding chemotherapy treatments, including cycle, side effects and more.

A Recap: The Definition of Chemotherapy

As discussed in the 1st episode of this Hope With Answers Chemotherapy series, chemotherapy is really just a broad term to describe many of the cancer treatments that physicians use for our cancer patients, and specifically the drugs that target the fastest growing cells, particularly the cancer cells. So chemotherapy is a really important part of many of our patient’s cancer journey.

What exactly is a cycle in a chemotherapy treatment?

A cycle simply refers to the duration of time that elapses between each treatment of chemotherapy that a patient gets. And a chemotherapy regimen comprises of multiple cycles. For example, the common lung cancer chemotherapy regimens often are given once every three weeks or every four weeks. So each cycle would be three or four weeks.

What is this recent treatment option for managing lung cancer chemotherapy side effects?

Chemotherapy can impact the bone marrow, and thus kill some of our good cells in the bone marrow, like the white blood cells and the red blood cells. This new treatment is really exciting in that it actually allows us to protect those cells from being harmed, before chemotherapy is given. So that’s really just a novel way of trying to reduce some of the debilitating side effects that our patients often encounter as they go through chemotherapy. Promising news for patients, this approach is being studied in clinical trials for other cancers as well.

How do patients talk to their doctors about minimizing some of these side effects or different treatment options?

Begin a dialog with your doctor at the beginning – when your doctor is talking to you about chemotherapy and proposing it as a treatment. Ask questions like:

  • what that looks like in terms of the schedule
  • what does each cycle of chemotherapy looks like and what that means
  • what kind of side effects are expected
  • what can be done to help prevent against those side effects or to treat them as they arise