What Happens at a Chemotherapy Session

Find out what to expect during a chemotherapy session and take a virtual tour of the Day Hospital at the Clinical Cancer Center on the Froedtert Hospital campus. 

Convenient Chemotherapy and Infusion Centers

We offer multiple convenient locations where you can receive chemotherapy — all with processes and amenities similar to the Day Hospital that is featured in the virtual tour. The staff — both nursing and pharmacy — follow the same policies and procedures at all locations for your safety. They are required to meet the same education and ongoing training from their professional organizations — the Oncology Nursing Society and the American Society of Clinical Oncology. They also adhere to the same professional standards of practice.

What Is Chemotherapy Like?

Chemotherapy can be an overwhelming experience. We'd like to help you prepare for your appointment with us. In the video, we give you a virtual tour of what our infusion area looks like. We hope that this tour will help you understand what to expect during your visit.

Your clinic nurse will have given you information on any drugs you need to take before arriving at your infusion appointment to prevent side effects, such as nausea. They also educate you on the chemotherapy you will receive in the infusion areas — including side effects and any special precautions you may need to follow. They will advise you of any restrictions for the day of chemotherapy. If you have any questions about that, please call your clinic nurse. The phone number is located in the information given to you at your first clinic appointment with your medical oncologist.

Please eat as you normally would before coming. We ask that you bring an adult family member or good friend with you to your first appointment. There will be a good deal of information shared, and "four ears are better than two" is really true. We ask that small children do not accompany you to the infusion areas, unless you have spoken with staff members about it ahead of time.

What Should You Bring to Your Chemotherapy Session?

Snacks and a good book are welcome. Cable TV and DVD players are available in each patient cubicle. There is Wi-Fi access, so laptops, tablets or cell phones are all welcome. Water, juice, coffee and light snacks are also available.

Your first stop will be the front desk. You will be welcomed and greeted by staff. You will receive an armband to wear while you are here. For your safety, we will scan the armband prior to each medication you receive to ensure that you get the correct medication every time. After you check, in our nurses and pharmacists will double-check your orders and prepare the drugs your doctor ordered for you. This process is very detailed to assure you safely receive the right drugs in the right dose.

Chemotherapy drugs are not made until you arrive, since they are dosed just for you. Depending on your chemotherapy regimen, it can take up to 30 to 60 minutes for the entire process of preparing the chemotherapy. The drugs are prepared in our cancer pharmacy under sterile conditions by staff who are specially trained to mix and prepare your drugs. Only cancer medications are prepared in this area. Our pharmacy is a state-of-the-art environment to assure your safe care.

While you wait, we suggest that you check out other areas of the cancer center. Many of our sites include Small Stones Wellness Centers and small libraries where you can browse and find great resources. At Froedtert Hospital, you can also ask for a pager and leave the area. As you return to the front desk, return the pager. A tech or a nurse will greet you and bring you back to the treatment area.

If needed, you may be asked to step over to a scale for a weight or height check. We will need to check your weight if weight check has not been done and recorded in the last 21 days. Similarly, we will check your height if it has not been done in the last 12 months. Your correct current height and weight are necessary as it decides the correct dose of your chemotherapy. We are very careful with our calculations.

All areas have similar setups designed for patient comfort and safety. Assignment to a chair or bed is based on patient needs and availability. We also offer many clinical trials. If you are on a clinical trial at Froedtert Hospital, you may have your treatment in our Translational Research Unit where nurses and pharmacists collaborate to provide you state-of-the-art research opportunities comfortably and safely.

Now it's time for your chemotherapy. A nurse or a tech will help you get settled. A registered nurse with special training in the administration of chemotherapy will care for you. During each visit, the nurse will ask you questions about how you are feeling physically and emotionally. We will start an IV or access your central line (your port or PICC line), if it has not been done so already.

Two nurses will verify your chemotherapy for the correct drug dose and time. When giving chemotherapy, the nurses will be gowned and gloved to protect them from any accidental contact they may have with the chemotherapy. You will see lots of protective equipment for handling and disposing of the chemotherapy equipment. This is for everyone's protection. You will not be asked to wear any special protection. Remember the chemotherapy you receive is helpful in treating your cancer, but it can be harmful to those without cancer.

When you are done with your treatment, you can usually resume your usual activities. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink water, keep moving and get plenty of rest. As always, please let your clinic nurse know if you have any questions.