After a diagnosis of cancer by a family physician or specialist, you may be referred to the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown or the medical oncology satellite clinic at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside.
Through consultation with cancer centre medical staff, your family physician and specialists, an evaluation is made to determine the treatment required. There are three main ways to treat cancer: surgery, anti-cancer drugs (chemotherapy) and radiation. While surgery entails the removal of tumours, the goal of chemotherapy and radiation is to stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.
The course of treatment is determined not only by the type and stage of cancer, but also by what treatments and services you choose. Treatment can vary, some people may choose to undergo one type of treatment, and others a combination. Some might be placed in clinical drug trials. The process for treatment and recovery may take weeks, months, or years.
What if I want a second opinion or treatment in another province?
In some cases a second opinion or treatment in another province may be desired, or necessary. Certain procedures require prior approval from Health PEI, check with your oncologist before making any arrangements. The costs of travel and accommodations are your responsibility. Learn more about accessing medical services out-of-province and the Out-of-Province Travel Support Program.
What can I expect on my first appointment at the treatment centre?
Your first visit may take up to two hours so you may want to bring someone with you or take a book or something to help you pass the time. Light snacks are available from treatment centre volunteers.
- The receptionist will greet you, verify your health information and give you a new patient questionnaire to complete. In this questionnaire there is a section called Screening for Distress in which you will be asked questions about your emotional, spiritual, practical, psychological, physical and social well-being to help provide a person-centered approach to your care. A volunteer will also be there to assist you, get you a wheelchair if you need one or to point you in the right direction. Watch a video for patients.
- A nurse will measure your weight, height and blood pressure, review your questionnaire with you and answer any questions you have.
- The oncologist, and possibly a clinical associate (is a doctor who works in collaboration with the oncologist to deliver your care), will examine you, review your symptoms and diagnosis and determine which treatment is best suited to your needs and your disease.
- If you are prescribed chemotherapy you will receive specific instructions before you begin treatment, possibly the same day. You will also watch a video and review drug information.
- If radiation therapy is prescribed, you will be booked for a preparation appointment to set markings and positioning. You may be fitted with special forms or masks that will be used during each treatment session so your position is consistent, accurate and as comfortable as possible. This preparation phase can vary from hours to weeks depending on the requirements of your treatment plan.
- You will be called with your treatment appointment(s) as soon as your preparation is complete.
What will I need to bring with me when I go for treatment?
To help your appointment run smoothly bring the following with you:
- all medications you are currently taking both prescribed and over the counter in their original containers;
- your PEI Health Card (or provincial health card if you are from outside the province);
- a list of questions you may have (it may be helpful to start a journal with sections for tests performed, meetings with doctors, questions etc.);
- something to help you pass the time, a book or magazine; and
- a loved one to keep you company.
What can I do to ensure my treatment plan goes smoothly?
Coping with cancer can be challenging for you and your family. Your cancer care team will make every effort to offer care and treatment suited to your personal needs. You can help make this possible by:
- providing complete and accurate information;
- being actively involved in your care, treatment and end of treatment plans;
- notifying treatment centre staff about issues or concerns as soon as possible;
- calling in advance to cancel or reschedule appointments you are unable to attend;
- committing to your follow-up care either at the treatment centre or in the community;
- treating staff, fellow patients and families politely, patiently and with privacy and respect;
- respecting hospital property and policy, (e.g. the scent-free policy requires that you not wear perfume, scented hairspray, cologne or aftershave or any other scented products); and
- taking care of your personal items and valuables.
How often will my radiation appointments be scheduled?
Usually treatments are given daily, except on weekends, and will take about 15-30 minutes over several weeks. You can request early or late morning, or afternoon appointments and cancer centre staff will do their best to accommodate.
Who is available to help me with questions or other concerns and supports I may need?
The Cancer Patient Navigator will help you work through some of the challenges of cancer treatment.
The navigator will be able to:
- explain what you can expect during appointments and treatments;
- connect you with other professionals who can support you throughout your cancer care: social workers, dieticians, home care services and spiritual care providers;
- introduce you to community support groups specific to your cancer or to support programs like the Look Good Feel Better and Moving Forward programs; and
- help you sort out financial worries for travel and medication.
What if I require medical service between appointments or after hours?
Your family doctor will be aware of your treatment plan and will help with any medical concerns or prescriptions you need during your treatment. If anything unexpected happens between visits, call your family doctor or the cancer centre. If you need to go to emergency while you are on active chemotherapy, inform the attending health care provider that your blood counts may be low and you may be at increased risk of infection.
Should I participate in a clinical trial?
A clinical trial tests new medications and treatments, helping to determine if they work. Many advances in cancer treatment and improvements in cure and survival rates have resulted from clinical trials. Ask your doctor or nurse if there is a clinical trial that might be helpful for you. Learn more about clinical trials or search for a clinical trial in Canada.
Should I quit smoking before treatment?
Yes. Quitting smoking or other forms of tobacco use is one of the best things you can do to help your cancer treatment. Quitting can reduce the chance of your cancer returning or getting another form of cancer. Whether you are scheduled to have radiation therapy, chemotherapy or surgery, quitting tobacco can help you by:
- increasing the effectiveness of treatments;
- decreasing the severity of side effects; and
- speeding up recovery.
For more information and resources, visit the Tobacco Cessation and Relapse Prevention Program.
What happens after my treatment has finished?
Your health care team and your family physician will remain a part of your care. After your treatments are complete, you may have regular follow-up appointments at the cancer centre. You should also see your family physician for regular check-ups after your treatments are done and for other health needs you have while being treated.
When will the side effects go away?
Most side effects will slowly go away after completion of your treatment, but you may have some that last a long time. You should start to feel stronger about one month after treatment. You will receive information about changes you can expect from your oncologist. If you have any questions related to side effects, please ask your physician or nurse at the cancer centre.
How can I contact the PEI Cancer Treatment Centre?
PEI Cancer Treatment Centre
60 Riverside Drive
PO Box 6600
Charlottetown, PE C1A 8T5
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Information Desk: (902) 894-2027
Fax Number: (902)894-2187
After hours: (902) 894-2111
Prince County Hospital Satellite Clinic
65 Roy Boates Avenue
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Information Desk: (902) 438-4418