TMH Living Well: Chemotherapy offered locally
May 30, 2014
Facing chemotherapy is daunting for cancer patients. Add on a long drive both ways and it can become downright overwhelming. Having infusion services close to home is vital in making it feel manageable.
"Our chemotherapy patients are so grateful to learn that we offer the same chemotherapy infusions here as they could get in a large city. The only infusions we can't offer are investigative drugs that are under research. Otherwise we have access to all the standard and specialty medicines," said Kyle Miller, PharmD, director of pharmacy for The Memorial Hospital.
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Cancer patients don't have to see a doctor through TMH to receive chemotherapy at TMH. All that is needed is a doctor's order sent to the registration office at the hospital. From there, the patient is called and a convenient infusion schedule is determined. In general, chemotherapy infusions are given on an outpatient basis and do not require a hospital stay.
"We know patients have better things to do, so our goal is to minimize their wait, make them comfortable, and get them in and out as quickly as possible," Miller added.
The hospital started offering fulltime chemotherapy and other infusion services over two years ago, yet Miller commonly hears patients say they were surprised to hear that TMH offers infusion therapy services.
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"Patients are so grateful that we can give infusions here at home in Craig. We receive the order and work very closely with their doctor to carry it out to his or her specifications. We then follow up on how the patient responds," Miller said.
Not only can TMH provide chemotherapy, it can also give medicines that counteract the side effects of chemotherapy, such as low white blood cell counts and nausea. Whatever a doctor prescribes — as long as it is not investigative — can be administered at TMH.
"A lot of what patients are now receiving is a newer class of drugs called biological agents. These agents work differently than traditional chemotherapy drugs that kill cells. These drugs act specifically on how cells function and what they produce. They typically have fewer side effects for patients and are easier to administer," Miller added.
The TMH pharmacy is accredited and licensed to safely handle, mix and administer all the medicines an oncologist or physician might prescribe.
Having services right here in town helps people who are still working full time, as they don't lose a whole day to infusion. It's also reassuring, given Craig winters, to be able to receive treatment close to home.
"Driving can be unpleasant after chemotherapy or another infusion. Medicines and a bumpy road can make people feel sick. It's so much nicer to be close to home," said Marie Kettle, RN, Infusion Therapy Services, TMH.
Chemotherapy by infusion is delivered into the bloodstream through a needle, port or catheter that's connected to an infusion pump. The patient reclines in a chair and passes the time watching television, reading or doing crafts. Infusion times vary, but can be as quick as an hour or as long as 12 hours, depending on the medicine.
TMH offers infusions Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and after hours through the emergency department. The infusion center is located at the center of the hospital.
"The average infusion seems to take about four to six hours," Kettle added.
Leading-edge CADD pumps available at TMH
Besides all types of chemotherapy, TMH now offers ambulatory CADD pumps for longer infusions. These pumps allow patients to go about their daily lives while receiving infusion over a 48- to 72-hour period. The pump is started at TMH, then the patient returns to have it removed.
"There has been a lot of research that shows certain medications are more effective when given over a longer period of time. Most research has been done with the CADD pump and colon cancer patients," Miller said.
Visiting oncologists from St. Mary's available locally
While infusions can be ordered by any regional doctor and carried out at TMH, the hospital is happy to report that it offers access to oncologists from St. Mary's hospital in Grand Junction on a regular basis. Dr. Mark Hancock and Dr. Virginia Tjan-Wettstein see patients in Craig at TMH once a month.
If you have any questions about infusion therapy services at TMH, call 970-824-9411.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.