Our chemotherapy, immunotherapy and intravenous cancer treatment facility is one of the biggest in New South Wales. Cancer care is underpinned by a specialist research program designed to get you the very best outcomes from your treatment.
The medical oncology unit at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is supported by the biggest clinical trials facility in New South Wales. Our patients have access some of the latest medicines before they are made widely available and our specialists maintain a cutting-edge understanding of cancer and its treatment.
We take a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care, bringing together a concentration of expertise, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals. You will benefit from comprehensive information and support from a wide range of experts, all delivered within the one integrated cancer care plan.
Types of treatment
You may be given a wide range of treatments depending on your cancer type, what stage it is and your health in general. These treatments may include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy or hormonal therapy.
These treatments are all given in our Day Therapy unit, located on Level 1. You may also come to Day Therapy for blood transfusions, blood products or other therapies to support you through treatment-related side effects. If you have any questions about drug treatments, our receptionists will be able to help.
Chemotherapy is the use of powerful drugs to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. Cancer cells divide without control and cytotoxic drugs interfere with the process of cell division. Treatment can involve a single drug, or a combination of drugs given around the same time.
Chemotherapy may be given:
- To destroy cancer completely.
- After surgery or radiation therapy, to ‘clean up’ any remaining cancer cells too small to see. This will minimise the chance of the cancer reoccurring.
- Prior to surgery or radiation therapy, to shrink the cancer and increase the success of the other treatment.
- In cases where a cure is not possible, to improve symptoms, shrink the cancer and prolong life.
Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles of treatments. The drugs are commonly given as a liquid through a drip into a vein (intravenously), so that they can circulate in the bloodstream and reach the cancer cells wherever they are in the body. Some types are taken as tablets or capsules. You may be given a wide range of treatments depending on the type of cancer, what stage it is and your health in general.
Chemotherapy can cause unpleasant side effects. Your side effects will be closely monitored during treatment. Medicines can be given to control some of these effects. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, oncology massage and reflexology can help reduce some of these side effects, as well as improving your quality of life.
Immunotherapy is a relatively new type of drug treatment that harnesses the power of the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.
The immune system protects the body by recognising and attacking foreign organisms such as germs or abnormal cells. However, some cancers can find ways to tip the balance of the immune system so that it does not recognise and attack the cancer. Immunotherapy corrects this balance and enables the immune system to begin destroying the cancer.
Different types of immunotherapy work in different ways. Some stimulate the immune system to effectively recognise and fight cancer, while others break down the barriers that stop the immune system from attacking the cancer. The type of immunotherapy you may be prescribed will depend on your cancer type and stage.
If immunotherapy is successful, it can either shrink the cancer or stabilise it so that it doesn’t increase in size, meaning you can continue to have a good quality of life.
How is immunotherapy given?
Immunotherapy is generally given directly into a vein via an intravenous drip, like chemotherapy. Treatment is usually given in cycles of 2-4 weeks. The frequency and duration of your cycles will depend on your cancer type and how advanced it is, and how you respond to the treatment. Some people stay on immunotherapy for up to two years.
Because immunotherapy stimulates the activity of the immune system, it can cause side effects elsewhere in the body. These are different to those of other cancer treatments and are managed differently. They may occur weeks or even months after treatment. Many patients only experience mild side effects from immunotherapy treatment, which can be treated with steroids or other medicines. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, oncology massage and reflexology can help reduce some of these side effects, as well as improving your quality of life.
Talk to your care team about what to expect and let them know about any changes you notice.
Common side effects include:
- Changes in weight or temperature
- Skin rash or itching
- Stomach cramps or diarrhoea
- Joint pain or muscle pain
- Headache, change in vision or dry eyes
- Breathlessness or coughing
- Yellowing of eyes, abdominal pain or dark urine
- Excessive thirst or urination
Preparing for treatment
Have a good night’s sleep. Turn off all screens an hour before bed and have a soothing drink such as warm milk and honey or herbal tea. Read, listen to relaxing music and know our team is dedicated to to providing you with expert, compassionate care.
Start drinking fluids such was water, diluted fruit juice or cordial. This helps to plump up the veins and protect the kidneys which filters the therapies out of the body when finished. It is recommended that people receiving chemotherapy drink 2-3 litres of fluid on the day of treatment, and for two days after to flush out the treatment, unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
Eat normally before treatment. Have breakfast and take your regular medication including any pre-medication prescribed by your medical oncologist.
You need to organise to have a blood test before your treatment in Day Therapy – ideally the day before.
The results of your blood test will give your care team crucial information to make decisions regarding your treatment. If you are travelling to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse from a distance, ask a day therapy nurse to give you a pathology request form that you can use to get your blood test closer to home.
Support for you and your family
With a holistic approach to cancer care, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is committed to treating the whole person. Find out about allied health and complementary therapies available to you and your loved ones during your treatment.
Checking in to Day Therapy
Check in at Day Therapy reception when you arrive. When your treatment is ready, a nurse will call your name or ring you on your mobile.
There are many factors which influence the timeliness of your treatment and we recommended you don’t make any other appointments on your treatment day outside of Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. This excludes appointments with your doctors at Lifehouse or with the integrative medicine team.
One of our volunteers will stop by your treatment chair with a selection of sandwiches or you can bring your own food or buy it from our café. We provide you with a Sony entertainment tablet which has TV, radio and WiFi on it. We can draw the blinds, dim the lights, recline the lounge chair and give you a warm blanket if you prefer to sleep
Frequently asked questions
Treatment can take anywhere from half an hour to up to eight hours. Some treatments continue overnight in hospital or over a number of days, and some are delivered through a take-home pump.
Your doctor will tell you how long your treatment is planned for.
The length of your treatment will depend on your cancer type, how it responds to treatment and your ability to tolerate the treatment.
Treatment is usually delivered in cycles with periods of rest in between, to allow the normal cells in your body to recover. These can be given over a few days, weeks, or months, and some on a long-term basis.
Some treatments are as short as one quick injection, other treatments may use a drip through a vein, or an implanted access device. These may be drugs that prevent nausea or side effects or may be chemotherapy drugs.
Many people bring themselves to and from treatment, however we recommend that on your first visit you bring someone with you for support.
Our nurses are here to support you on your first day whether someone comes with you or not. There is parking underneath the building.
When your treatment has finished, the pharmacist may give you some anti-nausea pills to take home with you. If you are feeling sick, take your pill. You may prefer to have something light, like soup, for dinner. If you continue to feel sick, take the pills prescribed to you over the next few days. If they don’t relieve your nausea, if you feel unwell or if you can’t drink, call the day therapy nurse on 8514 0021 8:30am – 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.
When to come to hospital
- If you have a temperature of 38c or over
- You can’t drink fluids because of nausea or vomiting
- You are losing too much fluid from diarrhoea
- If you are receiving immunotherapy treatment and have
– Sudden extreme tiredness
– Two episodes of diarrhoea
- Or any of the above
Call the day-therapy nurse (02) 8514 0021 Monday – Friday 8-30am – 5:30pm.
After hours go immediately to your nearest emergency department.
Call on the on-call oncology registrar on (02) 8514 0000.
Meet our Team
- Prof Michael Boyer AM Chief Clinical Officer
- Dr Kate Mahon Director of Medical Oncology
- Prof Lisa Horvath Director of Research
- A/Prof Catriona McNeil Medical Oncologist
- A/Prof Jane Beith Medical Oncologist
- A/Prof Peter Grimison Medical Oncologist
- Dr Ash Malalasekera Medical Oncologist
- Dr Hao-Wen Sim Medical Oncologist
- Dr Jenny Lee Medical Oncologist
- Dr Madeleine Strach Medical Oncologist
- Dr Michelle Harrison Medical Oncologist
- Dr Mun Hui Medical Oncologist
- Dr Sanjeev Kumar Medical Oncologist
- Dr Steven Kao Medical Oncologist
- Dr Vivek Bhadri Medical Oncologist
- Prof Martin Stockler Medical Oncologist
- Professor John Simes Medical Oncologist
- Dr Yeh Chen Lee Medical Oncologist
Information for GPs
To refer a patient to a medical oncologist, download a general referral form. Alternatively, send a referral letter to the appropriate oncologist. All referrals must indicate a specific clinician. A list of our oncologists is available here.
Send the completed form by fax to (02) 9383 1014 and include any relevant test results showing anomalies. Once this is received, the referral will be triaged by our patient navigation team, and we will contact the patient to arrange an appointment.
Day Therapy – Level 1
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse
119-143 Missenden Road,
Camperdown NSW 2050
Cnr Missenden & Salisbury Rd
Telephone: (02) 8514 0151
Fax: (02) 9383 1014
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is located on Missenden Road, Camperdown. Please refer to the above.