Jefferson University Hospitals

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell me a little about the Infusion Center?

The Center features spacious, light-filled treatment bays, individual flat-screen TVs and relaxing décor. There are 20 reclining chairs in the unit along with chairs for anyone who may have accompanied you. There are curtains around each unit that can be used for privacy.

The Infusion Center tends to be cold. We can provide blankets if you are feeling chilly or feel free to bring a blanket from home if it will make you feel more comfortable.

Laptops and cell phones are permitted and can provide instructions on how to connect to the Internet through our Hospital Wi-Fi system, Jeff Guest.

Can I bring a family member with me?

On the day of treatment, we encourage you to bring one family member or friend with you. Depending on the length of treatment and medication administered, you may be too tired to drive home. Please understand that many of our patients are at an increased risk for infection from viruses due to compromised immune systems. It is for this reason that a strict policy has been implemented that no children under the age of 16 may be permitted in the Infusion Center unless they are receiving treatment themselves.

Am I allowed to eat before treatment?

There are no restrictions on what you can eat on the day of treatment and you can eat anything during the treatment process. You can bring in your own food or eat what is provided by the Infusion Center. We have snacks, juices, coffee, tea and sodas available at all times and sandwiches are available at lunchtime.

There are also many places outside of the Infusion Center where you may purchase food.

Am I allowed to take my medications on the day of treatment?

If you are taking any prescription medications for any conditions, you are permitted to take those on the day of treatment unless your oncologist has instructed otherwise. If you are unsure, contact your doctor.

Where can I park?

Valet parking is available on 10th street between Market and Chestnut Streets in the Rothman Building. The cost of parking is dependent upon the length of stay. Your parking ticket will be validated at the end of your stay and costs can range anywhere from $2.00 to $4.00. You may also self-park in the Laz Parking Garage on 10th and Chestnut Streets.

What is the check-in process at the Infusion Center?

Upon arrival you will check in on the 2nd floor. At the reception desk, you will see a computer monitor and you need to enter your name in the computer and take a seat in the waiting room. If you have any questions on how to do this, one of the receptionists can help you.

Within a short time, someone will call your name and you will be asked to verify your identity and contact information some questions and asked to provide copies of insurance cards, referrals if needed and any co-pays to complete your registration. Once you have completed the registration process, you take a seat in the waiting room until your name is called to have your lab work done. If you do not have a port, you will be brought back to have a phlebotomist or nurse draw your blood.

If you do have a port, you will be taken into the Infusion Center to have your labs done via your port by an assigned registered nurse.

If you are seeing your physician on the same day of your treatment, you will do that after your labs have been drawn. The physician offices are located on the 3rd or 4th floors.

Once you have completed your physician visit, you will come back to the Infusion Center where you will be seated and treatment will begin.

What lab work will I need done?

Your physician will order blood work to be drawn prior to each treatment to ensure that your lab values are within range to proceed with treatment. Labs will either be drawn from our highly skilled phlebotomists or by a registered nurse if you have an infusaport.

Once the labs are drawn and sent to the lab, it will take approximately 60 to 90 minutes for your physician to get the results. We encourage: You can ask your doctor to have your lab work done several days prior to treatment to avoid the wait time and to speed up your treatment process.

How long can I expect my treatment to take?

The length of your treatment is dependent on the type of chemotherapy your physician has ordered based on your type of cancer.

On your first visit, your chemotherapy is mixed specifically for you and your type of cancer at our onsite pharmacy. The pharmacist does not start mixing the chemotherapy until they receive a checklist from your assigned nurse.

This checklist contains your lab results and weight, which needs to be a certain range for you to receive treatment. If the lab values and weight are acceptable, the pharmacist will mix the therapy. This process can take approximately 30-60 minutes depending upon the type of chemotherapy you are receiving.

Overall you can expect to be there anywhere from an hour to several hours.

Will I need an IV to receive treatment?

When you come in for your treatment a registered nurse will be assigned to you. They will determine whether you require an IV or if you have a port that needs to be accessed.

What happens if I miss my appointment?

If you miss your appointment, please be sure to notify your physician so you can be rescheduled for another time. Please contact your physician’s office directly to reschedule.

What if I am running late for my appointment?

If you are running late, please notify the front desk. The telephone number is 215-955-8874. You will not be cancelled but you may be delayed in being seated.

How many times will I need to receive chemotherapy treatments?

Your physician will discuss your treatment and determine how often you will need to receive treatment. Depending upon your type of cancer, a chemo cycle could be every week, every two weeks or every three weeks.

What is a Complete Blood Count (CBC)?

This is a lab value that helps your physician determine if you are able to receive treatment. It looks at your white blood count, hemoglobin (the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs.) and platelets (important for blood clotting). If any of these values are extremely low, treatment may be delayed and you will be rescheduled in a week or so to give your counts time to recover.

If your white blood count is too low, you may receive an injection that will boost your count to prevent you from developing an infection or your physician may put you on antibiotics. If your hemoglobin level or platelet count are too low, you may require a blood transfusion.

Where do I go for blood transfusions if I need one?

If you need a blood transfusion because of a low hemoglobin level or platelet count, a blood specimen is drawn and sent to the Blood Bank so that they can match your blood type.

Once your blood type is matched, a bag is prepared and we are notified that it’s ready. Your physician may order pre-medication (Tylenol or Benadryl) prior to the infusion to avoid a possible blood transfusion reaction. Typically the doctor will order 2 units.

This entire process can take up to 4 hours.

What if I have a problem after I get home?

If you have any issues after you receive your treatment please call 215-955-8874 and you will be directed on what to do.

If it is an emergency, please call 911 immediately or go to the nearest hospital.

What are the side effects of chemotherapy?

You may experience some side effects after receiving your treatment. The most commonly reported symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, peripheral neuropathies, and fatigue. Before your treatment begins, you will be given anti-nausea medications, which will help you during your stay.

It’s important to remember that everyone is different and you may experience none of these effects, some or all. It’s important to share the side effects with your physician who may be able to help you manage the side effects with medications. If your symptoms are severe, please contact your physician immediately.

Also, the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine offers an Integrative Cancer Care Program that provides complementary therapies such as vitamins, special diets, herbs and acupuncture that may help with some of your symptoms.

You also have access to oncology social workers who are trained in individual and family therapy and are available to meet with you to assist with the psychosocial impact of cancer treatment, and can provide a valuable link to available community resources.

I understand I may lose my hair after treatment. Where can I purchase a wig?

Jefferson's Wig Program for Cancer Patients was created to help ease the stress and/or embarrassment of sudden hair loss experienced by our patients. If you are being treated for cancer, either as an inpatient or an outpatient at Jefferson, and you have hair loss, we are happy to provide you with a free synthetic wig, turban or hat.

To make an appointment, place call Patient Services at 215-955-7777 or 5-7777 (from inside the Hospital).

Here at Jefferson, we want our patients to be as educated and informed as possible when it comes to their cancer care. We suggest you bring a list of questions and a notepad to ensure you get the most information possible during your visit with us. Some frequent questions asked of our radiation oncologists about cancer include:  

  • What type and stage of cancer do I have?
  • How will radiation therapy help me?
  • How does radiation therapy work? Is it internal or external?
  • How many and how long will I receive radiation treatments?
  • What are the chances that radiation therapy will work?
  • What is the chance that the cancer will spread or come back if I do not have radiation therapy?
  • Will I need chemotherapy, surgery or other treatments?
  • How can I expect to feel during treatment and in the weeks following radiation therapy?
  • Can I drive myself to and from the treatment facility? 
  • Will I be able to continue my normal activities? 
  • What side effects may occur from the radiation? 
  • Will radiation therapy affect my ability to have children? 
  • What are some of the support groups I can turn to during treatment?

Skin is your body's largest and most visible organ. Among other functions, it protects our internal systems, regulates body temperature and acts as our sensory organ for touch. Since it is constantly exposed to the stresses of everyday living, your skin can take a beating. Some skin problems, such as dryness and thinning, occur naturally during the aging process and are mostly harmless. Other conditions, such as a rapid growth that may indicate skin cancer, are dangerous and potentially deadly. Protecting yourself with an effective sunscreen while outdoors and regularly checking your skin for any changes can help prevent sun damage and detect skin cancer early. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about skin cancer.

What are the warning signs of skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. Fortunately, the two most common types of skin cancer have well over a 95 percent cure rate because they can be readily recognized and successfully treated in their early stages. However, late detection and treatment can often result in a cosmetic disfigurement or internal spread, so watch for these warning signs and bring them to your doctor's attention immediately:

  • Basal cell cancer, a nonmelanoma, is the most common type of skin cancer. This tumor may show up as a smooth, shiny lump which sometimes bleeds or develops a crust; as a flat, red spot; or as a firm, red lump.
  • Squamous cell cancer, also a nonmelanoma, can be similar in appearance to basal cell skin cancer. It shows up as a rough, scaly patch or as a small, rounded lump that bleeds and does not heal. If not detected early, squamous cell cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and is rapidly becoming an epidemic in the United States. This tumor may prove fatal or spread to other organs if left untreated; it has a much lower survival rate than other skin cancers. Melanoma, like other skin cancers, is painless at the beginning. It often appears as a brownish-black patch with an asymmetrical shape, irregular border, and nonuniform pigmentation.

Also be aware of any changes in the surface or size of a mole, which could indicate melanoma.

What causes skin cancer?

Dermatologists agree that ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer. Even sunlamps and tanning booths emit ultraviolet rays that can contribute to skin cancer and premature aging and should not be considered safe alternatives to sunbathing. What's more, it's not just a week at the beach soaking up the sun that is potentially dangerous to your skin and your health. Ultraviolet rays are present all year long, and you're exposed to them daily and constantly doing the most routine things – exercising outdoors, eating lunch at an outside cafe, walking to and from work. Doctors expect the skin cancer scourge to worsen in the future because of the thinning of the earth's protective ozone layer, which filters out harmful ultraviolet rays. Other less important factors, but skin cancer contributors nevertheless, include radiation therapy, scarring from disease or burns, a family history of skin cancer and occupational exposure to certain compounds.

Who is at risk for developing skin cancer?

Anyone can get skin cancer; no one is immune. However, years of unprotected sunbathing dramatically increase your risk of getting cancer. People most susceptible to developing this disease spend much of their time in the sun without proper protection, have red or blond hair, blue or light-colored eyes and fair skin that tends to freckle or burn rather than tan. African Americans can develop skin cancer as well, although their incidence is much lower than light-skinned people because they have a higher concentration of melanin, which helps protect their skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. Despite this innate protection, ultraviolet rays can still promote premature aging and wrinkles in dark-skinned people.

Melanoma poses the most serious risk for people with many moles. Researchers have also found that people who suffered a serious sunburn during their youth are twice as likely to develop melanoma later in life.

How is skin cancer treated?

Dermatologists use a variety of methods to remove skin cancers. Skin cancer can be treated with surgery, an electric needle, by freezing (cryosurgery) or with a highly specialized procedure known as Mohs micrographic surgery. Mohs surgery is one of the most advanced methods used to remove cancerous skin, with minimal loss of surrounding healthy tissue and little risk of leaving cancerous tissue behind. Other skin cancer treatment methods include radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Your doctor will recommend the treatment method that's best for you depending on the size of the tumor, its location and the type of cancer.

Researchers are working on immunological treatments for malignant melanoma. A vaccine has been developed that consists of the patient's own cancer cells modified with the chemical DNP. DNP changes the melanoma cells so that the body recognizes them as foreign and produces an immune response against them. Although the vaccine is still experimental, promising results have been seen in patients with melanoma that has spread to lymph nodes. Administering the vaccine following lymph node surgery has been shown to increase the chance of cure, compared with surgery alone.

How can skin cancer be prevented?

The best and most effective defensive measure against skin cancer is to reduce your exposure to the sun. Although skin cancer is most likely to appear in adulthood, sun damage is cumulative and begins in childhood, so the effects of the sun may be severe by the time a person reaches young adulthood. Less than 10 years ago, for instance, it was unusual to find skin cancer in a person under 50 years old. Today, however, dermatologists are diagnosing skin cancer in adults in their 20s. This may be due, in part, to the amount of time people have spent outdoors in recent decades, basking in the sun or not using the right amount of sun protection.

Because the sun can harm your skin and your looks year-round, doctors now recommend protecting your skin by applying a sunscreen daily, not just during the summer months. Whenever you go outside – to run errands, to walk the dog, to wash the car – always wear a sunscreen on exposed skin and choose a product with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 15. The higher the number, the greater protection from ultraviolet rays, although there's no need to buy a product with an SPF larger than 30. Also, look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum.” They block out ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, the light rays responsible for sunburns and skin cancer, as well as ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which cause wrinkled, sagging, leathery skin. For maximum protection, apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply sunscreen after swimming or perspiring.

In addition to limiting your sun exposure time, doctors also recommend wearing protective clothing, such as wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves, when spending time in the sun. Ultraviolet rays are present during daylight hours but avoid midday sun especially, because UVB rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Examine your entire body once a month for the early warning signs of cancer and see a dermatologist immediately if you notice any changes in the color, shape, size or texture of moles or other growths. It's also a smart idea to have a dermatologist check your skin once a year.

What are clinical trials?

When laboratory research shows that a new treatment method has promise, patients with cancer have the opportunity to receive the treatment in clinical trials or protocols.

By participating in a clinical trial you may have the first chance to benefit from improved treatment methods and the opportunity to make an important contribution to medical science.

To find out more about current clinical trials that you may be able to participate in, ask your doctor or call 215-955-1661 or 1-800-JEFF-NOW.