The UTHealth Houston Neurosciences Infusion Center team offers care and support to promote the best possible outcomes for patients with a cancer diagnosis. Patients receive personalized chemotherapy treatment plans, and infusions are performed in a clean, comfortable, and calm setting.
What are Chemotherapy Infusions?
Chemotherapy is a key part of cancer treatment. Drugs are infused into the blood stream to:
- Kill cancer cells
- Stop the spread of cancer cells throughout the body
- Slow the growth of cancer cells
Chemotherapy can be prescribed at different times during treatment depending on tumor type, stage/grade, location, and other variables. Your particular infusion plan will be customized to work best for your needs – for example, you could require a higher dose every three weeks, or a lower dose on a weekly basis.
Your oncologist will work closely with our physicians to plan your treatment, including the type of chemotherapy drug to be used, dosage, and frequency of infusions. He or she will also recommend other drugs and/or pre-medications that can help reduce side effects of chemotherapy.
All prescribed therapies are administered by a certified infusion nurse who will work under the supervision of your referring physician. The nurse has expertise in medication interaction and will have access to a UTHealth Houston Houston Neurosciences physician to discuss your care if any questions arise during your treatment.
Scheduling Your Visit
We work closely with physicians and patients to make the appointment process as easy as possible.
- Your physician will send your infusion order and any specific information pertinent to your treatment plan to the Infusion Center.
- The Infusion Center team will call you to discuss the referral process.
- The team will also contact your insurance company for verification and authorization. This process can take 5 to 7 days.
- Once authorization is in place, the Infusion Center team will contact you to schedule your appointment and give you instructions for your pre-infusion lab work.
At any point in this process, you can call (713) 486-8175 or message us through the Patient Portal to ask questions and check on progress.
Preparing for Your Visit for Chemotherapy Infusions
We strive to make your visit as comfortable as possible. We ask patients to arrive 15 minutes early for their appointments so they have time to complete the Patient Portal and clinic forms, use the bathroom, and prepare for their treatment.
Please note: you should ask someone to drive you to and from your infusion appointments, as you probably won’t be up to driving afterward.
If you will need a wheelchair or oxygen for your visit, please call (713) 486-8175 one business day before your appointment.
For the comfort of our patients and guests, we ask that you bring no more than one guest to your appointment, and no children under the age of 12.
You can wear whatever is most comfortable for you; some recommendations are listed below.
- A short-sleeved shirt, for IV access, or a button-down shirt, if you have a chest port
- A hoodie or cardigan, warm socks or slippers to change into, in case you get cold
- Clothes that aren’t tight or constrictive (like sweats or yoga pants), no jewelry or belts
Food and Drink
Be sure to drink plenty of water before infusions so you’re well hydrated. Since you may become nauseous, small amounts of bland foods are usually best before your infusion. This could include yogurt, toast, cereal, or crackers.
You can bring a snack to your infusion, along with water or a non-acidic juice such as apple or grape juice. We will have an assortment of snacks and beverages available for you as well.
What to Bring to Your Appointment
Make sure you have your insurance card and any paperwork you may have been asked to bring. If you have had any changes in insurance benefits, please let us know before your appointment, as we will need to re-verify coverage before your visit.
To help you pass the time during treatment, we have TV screens in the infusion suite. We will have books and magazines on hand, but you may want to take something of your own to read. You could also bring earbuds and have games, music, or videos available on your phone or tablet. Free Wi-Fi is available in our building. Earplugs could help you sleep if you want to.
You could also bring your own blanket or something small that provides comfort, whether physical or emotional. Heated/warm blankets will be provided upon request.
Please contact us ahead of time if you have any other questions about how to prepare, including an estimated duration for your treatment.
What to Expect
At your first visit, you will meet with our nurse practitioner before your treatment begins. He will explain the infusion process, discuss any potential side effects with you, and give you tips on how to best care for yourself after treatment. You may want to bring a list of questions and/or a notepad to your first visit so you can take notes for reference later.
The infusion process involves the following steps:
- You’ll be seated in a comfortable, reclining chair.
- Your nurse will review the medication prescribed for you by your provider.
- Your nurse will set up an IV bag and connect it through a port or needle.
- The IV will drip at a controlled rate, monitored by your nurse, to deliver the drug to your bloodstream. You may also receive pre-medications and injections through the IV, if prescribed.
- Infusion times last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, after which your nurse will disconnect the IV and check to see how you are feeling.
Upon completion of the therapy in the Infusion Center, the nurse will complete all necessary documentation regarding your therapy details. Your referring physician will have access to this information.
Side Effects of Chemotherapy Infusions
Because some healthy cells can be affected along with the cancer cells that are being targeted, you may experience some of these common side effects:
- Weakened immune system—which causes a higher risk of infection
- Problems with blood clotting—which can cause nosebleeds and increased bruising
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
Different chemotherapy drugs can have different side effects and contraindications. We encourage you to talk to your oncologist about the specific risks of the medication(s) you’re considering. Please let our team know if you have a prior history of adverse and or allergic reactions to any infusion therapies in the past.
When to Call
While most side effects are common and will usually resolve on their own, call us right away if you experience any of the following:
- Temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Shaking, chills, or body aches
- Weakness or tiredness
- Inability to eat or drink
- A very bad cough or sore throat, or coughing or spitting up blood
- Urinating often and/or burning when you urinate
- Any blood in your urine (dark brown or bright red in color) or stool (black and tarry or bright red in color)
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness, especially around a wound, sore, ostomy, or catheter site
- Tiny red spots or large, blotchy, black and blue marks on skin
- Any white patches, ulcers, or sores in the mouth
- Heavy bleeding, or bleeding that doesn’t stop after you apply gentle pressure for 5 minutes
- Nosebleeds that do not stop after you apply gentle pressure or ice to the bridge of the nose
- Any fainting, confusion, or increased shortness of breath
For urgent issues after hours, including any of the symptoms listed above, call (713) 486-8175.
Call 911 right away for all medical emergencies.