Dr. Mark Karides reflects on the basics of oral chemotherapy treatment as well as its rewards and challenges.
Dr. Mark Karides | What You Need to Know about Oral Chemotherapy
Oncologist and hematologist Dr. Mark Karides is committed to providing the highest quality of care and treatment to his patients. This requires an extensive understanding of cancer, blood diseases, and treatment options. Since no two patients are the same, their treatment varies as well. One form of treatment that has begun to gain more attention is oral chemotherapy. It is one more option scientists have developed in their quest to cure cancer.
What is oral chemotherapy?
Many people have heard of chemotherapy as a common treatment for many forms of cancer. What they may not have heard as much about is oral chemotherapy. Rather than receiving treatment drugs intravenously, patients take them in capsule form. This means they are able to take them at home on their own rather than traveling to a medical facility. They are still potent drugs, so people must handle them with caution.
How is it taken?
It is important that patients follow all directions that their physician provides, despite being a pill, notes Dr. Mark Karides. They will have a schedule they must adhere to regarding when to take the pills. They are not necessarily taken every single day, so patients must take care not to miss a dose. It is also important to remain aware of any interactions with food or other medication that could reduce the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
Oftentimes the drugs have special storage and handling procedures as well. Even though the chemotherapy is given in an oral form, it is still as strong as the IV form. Patients should keep the pills in their original container as opposed to sorting them into a pill organizer. Sometimes wearing gloves is recommended for caregivers depending on the type of medication they are handling.
What are the side effects?
As with any treatment or medication, some people may experience side effects. They will differ from person to person depending on their response to the medication. Some potential side effects of oral chemotherapy include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
- Changes in the skin
- Low blood count
Patients should talk to their doctor about any side effects they are experiencing. The doctor may have suggestions for alleviating these symptoms or may adjust the course of treatment.
How is treatment monitored?
Even though the patient takes the oral chemotherapy at home, they will still have periodic check-ups with their doctor. The doctor will monitor their progress and perform testing to see how the cancer is responding. Depending on the results they may change the dosage, type of medication, or approach to treatment.
Dr. Mark Karides Highlights Rewards and Challenges of Oral Chemotherapy
“As with any form of treatment, oral chemotherapy comes with its rewards and challenges,” says Dr. Mark Karides, physician specialist at Progressive Care S.C., “It is essential that patients and physicians work together and are clear on their roles and responsibilities.” This form of treatment is not ideal for every patient, so it is important to discuss all options.
Receiving treatment orally means that patients can take it at home and do not have to travel to a medical facility for administration. This often presents less interference to their schedule because it cuts down on travel and time requirements. In addition, the medication is sometimes taken less frequently than those given intravenously.
Some patients are prescribed oral chemotherapy in addition to traditional intravenous chemotherapy. Although they take one portion at home, they still must go to a medical facility for further treatment. The medication may have a stronger effect when used in combination with other therapies. “Treatment is determined on a case-by-case basis,” explains Dr. Mark Karides.
More responsibility is put on the patient to adhere to the administration schedule. They must make sure they consistently take the right amount at the right time on the right day. It is also important they are able to swallow pills and have a means to obtain their prescription. Sometimes a caregiver may help with following instructions and giving medication.
When receiving care at a medical facility, the physician and staff have more control over patient compliance. They handle the dosage and administration and ensure that each patient gets their treatment as prescribed. When the physician prescribes oral chemotherapy they must make sure that the patient is thoroughly educated on the process to facilitate more effective treatment. It is important to maintain clear communication and follow-up.
Insurance plans vary greatly on which medications and treatments they cover and how much they will pay. Oral chemotherapy is typically more expensive than traditional infusion and requires the patient to pay more upfront. They must pay each time the prescription is filled. It may also lead to reduced cost in the long run because they require fewer services from the medical facility as far as treatment administration.
When receiving traditional infusion, the medical facility bills the patient’s insurance for all services. They may pay a co-pay upfront, but the balance is due later, once the claim is processed. Overall expense incurred will depend on the type of treatment, how it is given, and what insurance covers.
Cancer treatment is a complex process that requires collaboration and communication between many individuals. Patients and their physicians should explore all options in order to determine the best course of treatment for each particular case, says Dr. Mark Karides.