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Types of treatment

What type of treatment will I be having?

The kind of cancer treatment we prescribe for you will depend on a number of factors. These include:

  • The kind of cancer you have
  • The stage your cancer is at
  • Other factors revealed in laboratory tests

Your consultant will tailor your treatment, taking all these factors into account. 


The aim of chemotherapy is to destroy and prevent the division of cancerous cells in your body. They may also affect non-cancerous cells and this can cause some side effects. These side effects will be discussed with you and we will support you throughout your treatment to help minimise and manage symptoms.

Targeted therapy

As well as the longstanding chemotherapy treatments, we also use newer drugs. These work in a more targeted way to kill cancer cells, while reducing the impact on non-cancer cells in the body. These newer drugs are sometimes referred to as monoclonal antibodies and immunotherapy. The short video below explains targeted treatment:


Before patients begin their chemotherapy treatment they are invited in to the ward to be assessed by a chemotherapy nurse. This visit allows the nurse to gauge the patient's current health needs before starting treatment and to check that any necessary support is in place that may be required. The nurse will also go through the treatment plan, discuss side effects of chemotherapy treatment and their home management. They will also show the patient around the chemotherapy ward environment and plan their start date. The appointment takes approximately one hour.

How is chemotherapy given?

Because different cancers are sensitive to different chemotherapy drugs, everyone’s treatment is different. Sometimes the same drug or drug combination may be used for different people. We calculate the dose for each individual.

Your doctor will discuss with you the best way to give your treatment. We will give your chemotherapy in one or more of the following ways:

  • Directly into a vein (intravenous) through a plastic needle called a ‘cannula’
  • As an infusion through a central line (PICC, Hickman, Portacath)
  • As a small ambulatory pump via a central line. You can go home with this kind of device. This is ideal for small volumes of fluid that need to run continuously over a few days or a week
  • As tablets to take at home as part of your treatment plan. Your nurse will explain how and when to take them. Don’t ask your GP for any more of these tablets
  • As an injection into a muscle or into the tissue

When you receive chemotherapy into a vein there is a small risk that the chemotherapy can leak out of the vein into surrounding tissue. If you experience burning or stinging around the infusion site during treatment please inform the nurse at once. Sometimes this can happen after you go home and in this case you should telephone for advice immediately.

Your treatment can also cause discomfort along the vein during administration and, although this is temporary, it is important that you tell the nurse. Sometimes this can happen after you go home and in this case you should telephone for advice immediately

Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) and Hickman Lines

Many intravenous treatments can go through a cannula in the back of your hand or on you forearm. However, sometimes the treatment requites a longer term line to be placed in a vein. This is done by a specialist team of nurses at the Royal Berkshire Hospital. If this is required for your treatment, it will be discussed with you at your pre-assessment appointment and arranged by the chemotherapy nurses. The Macmillan videos below give more information about central lines:

Hickman lines: 

PICC (Peripherally inserted central catheter) lines:



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