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Immunotherapy: questions to ask your doctor

You are having immunotherapy to try to kill cancer cells. You may receive immunotherapy alone or along with other treatments at the same time. Your health care provider may need to follow you closely while you are having immunotherapy. You will also need to learn how to best care for yourself during this time.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your doctor.

Questions

Is cancer immunotherapy the same as chemotherapy?

Do I need someone to bring me in and pick me up after the treatment?

What are the known side effects?

  • How soon after my treatment will I experience the side effects?

Am I at risk for infections?

  • What foods should I not eat so that I do not get an infection?
  • Is my water at home OK to drink? Are there places I should not drink the water?
  • Can I go swimming?
  • What should I do when I go to a restaurant?
  • Can I be around pets?
  • What immunizations do I need? Which immunizations should I stay away from?
  • Is it OK to be in a crowd of people? Do I have to wear a mask?
  • Can I have visitors over? Do they need to wear a mask?
  • When should I wash my hands?
  • When should I take my temperature at home?

Am I at risk for bleeding?

  • Is it OK to shave?
  • What should I do if I cut myself or start bleeding?

Are there any medicines I should not take?

  • Are there any other medicines I should keep on hand?
  • What over-the-counter medicines am I allowed to take?
  • Are there any vitamins and supplements I should or should not take?

Do I need to use birth control? What should I do if I want to get pregnant in the future?

Will I be sick to my stomach or have loose stools or diarrhea?

  • How long after I start targeted treatment might these problems start?
  • What can I do if I am sick to my stomach or have diarrhea?
  • What should I be eating to keep my weight and strength up?
  • Are there any foods I should avoid?
  • Am I allowed to drink alcohol?

Will my hair fall out? Is there anything I can do about it?

Will I have problems thinking or remembering things? Can I do anything that might help?

What should I do if I get a rash?

  • Do I need to use a special kind of soap?
  • Are there creams or lotions that can help?

If my skin or eyes are itchy, what can I use to treat this?

What should I do if my nails start to break?

How should I take care of my mouth and lips?

  • How can I prevent mouth sores?
  • How often should I brush my teeth? What type of toothpaste should I use?
  • What can I do about dry mouth?
  • What should I do if I have a mouth sore?

Is it OK to be out in the sun?

  • Do I need to use sunscreen?
  • Do I need to stay indoors during cold weather?

What can I do about my fatigue?

When should I call the doctor?

Alternative Names

Cancer - immunotherapy; Tumor - immunotherapy

References

Lotze MT, Robinson BWS, June CH, Whiteside TL. Tumor immunotherapy. In: Rich RR, Fleisher TA, Shearer WT, Schroeder H, Frew AJ, Weyand CM, eds. Clinical Immunology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 77.

Pardoll D. Cancer immunology. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Doroshow JH, Kastan MB, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 6.

Review Date 8/15/2016

Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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