FAQ

FAQ

A diagnosis of cancer, whether it is our own diagnosis or that of a friend or family member, brings with it many questions. These questions range from treatment options, to side-effects of medications, to what foods are best to eat when being treated for cancer.

This FAQ was created with our patients and their families in mind. If you have questions that aren’t answered here, please feel free to contact us.

General Frequently Asked Questions

During regular business hours, call 334-528-1070 or 334-528-4411. The operator will connect you with a member of your treatment team who will assist you or direct your call to your physician.

After hours, call the main EAMC number, 334-749-3411. Ask the operator to page your physician for you, and he or she will return your call.
All patients presenting for a consultation, a follow-up visit, an appointment at the Infusion Center, or for a special procedure must check in each time. Established patients who are undergoing radiation treatment report directly to the sub-waiting area located across from the therapists.
If you have difficulty coming to the Cancer Center for your appointments, please contact the oncology social workers at 334-528-1076 for information on resources that may be available to you.
The EAMC Pastoral Services Department provides support to patients of all denominations and their family members. Our chaplain and associate chaplains are available around the clock at EAMC and the Cancer Center. If you need a chaplain, call the hospital operator or ask any staff member to call the operator to page the chaplain.
If you have any questions about your hospital bill or your physician bill for Dr. Johnson or Dr. Farmer, call the EAMC business office at 334-528-1275. Hours are from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday - Friday. If you have questions about your radiation oncology billing, please call 1-800-228-3565, extension 5816. Business hours are from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., EST, Monday – Friday. For more information regarding billing and insurance, visit our Financial and Insurance page
If you are covered by more than one insurance program, it is important that you let us know. Remember to carry all of your insurance identification cards with you when coming for your visit. We will file on both primary and secondary insurances.
Some insurance plans have “per visit” co-payments, annual deductibles, or lifetime or annual limits. Separate co-payments may be required for your doctor or professional services, and for technical services such as laboratory tests, x-rays, radiation treatments or chemotherapy. All costs not covered by your insurance company are your responsibility and due at the time of service.

If you do not have insurance coverage, payment is expected at the time of service. A prompt payment discount of 45% is given when full payment is made at the time of service. Payment can be made by cash, check or credit card. If you need to speak with a financial counselor, you may call 334-528-1275.
Yes. There are special programs in place to assist those who are not insured and those who are underinsured. When presenting for your consultation or treatment, you will meet with one of our social workers. The social worker will work with you to identify the appropriate resources to suit your needs. These resources may include drug replacement, medication assistance, eligibility review for assistance programs, etc. No one is refused treatment due to inability to pay or lack of health insurance coverage.
Most insurance plans require you to pay a deductible and/or co-pays. In addition, you could be responsible for non-covered services. Please contact your insurance company for specific answers to your questions. You may have out-of-pocket expenses.

Frequently Asked Questions About Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can be administered:
  • Intravenously (IV),
  • By mouth in the form of a pill,
  • With a shot (injection), or
  • By intrathecal and intraventricular injection (meaning into the spinal fluid surrounding the spinal cord or brain).
Chemotherapy is typically given in cycles, which is a treatment followed by a period of rest. A cycle can last one or more days, but is usually one, two, three, or four weeks long. A course of chemotherapy is comprised of multiple cycles. Each course is different, but generally consists of four to six cycles. It may take a relatively short period of time to receive some chemotherapy drugs, while others take hours. It all depends on the treatment regimen that your doctor recommends.

If your chemotherapy is given through an IV, your doctor may suggest an implanted venous access device (VAD) such as a Port-a-Cath. VADs are surgically placed in a large vein near the heart and can stay in place for long periods of time. By using a VAD, you will not have to have smaller catheters repeatedly placed in your arm veins.
Generally, treatments are given daily, weekly, or monthly. How often you receive chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer and which drug or combination of drugs you receive. Your doctor will help you determine the most effective treatment schedule for you. Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles with rest periods between each administration.
Family and friends are welcome to come with you during your treatment. For the privacy of patients, we ask that you only bring one family member to sit with you during this time. Due to the safety and concern of all our patients, we request that you do not bring any family or friends who might be ill.
You will receive chemotherapy that is best suited to achieve your goals of therapy. When selecting a treatment or treatments, your doctor will consider:
  • Your diagnosis
  • How far along your cancer is in its development
  • The expected behavior of the cancer
  • Where the cancer originated
  • Other medical problems you may have
  • Any potential side effects from the treatment.
The most common side effects of chemotherapy are low blood counts, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and fatigue. Some side effects may be temporary and merely annoying. Others, such as infection or a low white blood count, can be life-threatening. For example, one of the most serious potential side effects of chemotherapy is a low white blood cell count – a condition called neutropenia (new-truh-pee-nee-ah) – which can put you at risk for severe infections or treatment interruptions.

Fortunately, the research and innovations over the past 20 years have brought a great deal of progress in the development of treatments to help prevent and control the side effects of cancer therapy.
Many people who receive chemotherapy experience fatigue. Fatigue has many causes but frequently occurs because of anemia caused by the chemotherapy. Your daily activities should be planned according to how you feel, and you should take rest periods throughout the day as often as you feel necessary. Anemia can be effectively treated.
Without receiving special anti-nausea medications, most patients will experience some nausea after treatment with chemotherapy. Nausea and vomiting may last 24-48 hours. The severity of nausea and vomiting mainly depends on which chemotherapy drugs were used. A number of very effective medications called anti-emetics or anti-nausea drugs are now available to help lessen or prevent nausea and vomiting. These medications may be given to you intravenously during your chemotherapy, or you may be given a prescription medication to take at home.
Your doctor determines what kinds of tests are needed. If you are receiving chemotherapy, you may have blood work done that may include a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry profile, and any necessary cancer markers.
Chemotherapy destroys rapidly dividing cells, a characteristic of cancer cells. However, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets also divide rapidly and are frequently damaged by chemotherapy. Your red blood cell count, white blood cell count, and platelet count may all go down. Your doctor monitors these counts to determine the toxicity of treatment and to predict your risk for complications, as well as to plan future therapy.
Hair loss occurs with some, but not all, chemotherapy drugs. The amount of hair loss varies from a slight thinning to complete baldness and affects the scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows, legs, armpits, and pubic area.

Hair loss will typically begin two or three weeks after your first treatment. The amount of hair that you lose will depend on the type of chemotherapy drug you are taking. Hair typically begins to grow back approximately 4 weeks after treatment is finished. The hair may grow back differently than it was before treatment. For example color or texture (curly or straight) may be different.
Remember that hair loss associated with chemotherapy is temporary and the hair WILL grow back. In the meantime, here are a few tips to help you cope with the loss:
  • You may wish to cut your hair before it starts falling out. The experience of losing the hair is sometimes worse than dealing with it once it’s gone. If you expect to lose all or a lot of your hair, cutting it first may be easier to cope with.
  • Plan ahead; shop for a wig before your hair is gone, especially if you wish to match your natural color. Or, take this opportunity to try something different.
  • Try hats or head scarves; these are good alternatives or a compliment to a wig.
  • Remember to cover your head or use sunscreen on your scalp. Skin that has been covered with hair may be particularly sensitive to UV rays of the sun.
  • Treat your new hair gently once it grows back. Avoid chemicals, bleach, peroxide, or colors.
There are different types of hair pieces. You should consult with a specialist and choose the one that best fits your life style.
Most hair pieces should be washed in a gentle fabric detergent. They should be swished gently in soapy water, rinsed thoroughly, and hung to drip dry. This would apply to synthetic wigs. Human hair wigs should be shampooed and set as normal hair, either at home or at your beauty salon.
Be sure and ask your oncologist for a prescription to get a wig. Usually, the cost is partially or fully covered by most insurance companies.
The Cancer Center has a Boutique, which is located on site and is a convenient place to purchase bras, camisoles, prostheses and other items. Women who have had mastectomies or lumpectomies may be fitted for breast prostheses at the Boutique by our professionally trained and certified fitters. Many items are covered under Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans, and we will file for you. Boutique hours are by appointment - call 334-528-4370 or 334-741-7410.

Frequently Asked Questions About Radiation Therapy

The radiation therapist will contact you and set up your initial appointment. This appointment is for a computerized tomography simulation which identifies the exact position you will maintain for your treatment. After the simulation results are reviewed by your physician and dosimetrist, the therapist will again contact you to set up your first radiation treatment.
Generally, once a person begins treatment they maintain their treatment time. If you have a preference for a different treatment time, the therapist will offer you a slot as they become available.
Treatments are delivered daily, Monday thru Friday. Each treatment is generally completed in 15 - 30 minutes.
Call your team of radiation therapists at 334.528.2674. The therapists will notify the physician.
Length of treatment varies by individual. However, most individuals have from 25 to 35 treatments
Radiation therapy is most effective when given consecutively and consistently. Vacations should be taken before treatment begins or after the course of treatment ends. Individuals should make every effort to not miss treatments.
Your physician will determine if a missed appointment needs to be rescheduled. Generally, a missed appointment is added to the end of the treatment course.
Your radiation oncologist will manage your treatments and any side effects associated with your radiation treatment. You must continue to see your primary care physician for your routine medications.
Side effects will vary based on your treatment area. Your physician will review these side effects prior to beginning treatment. The radiation oncology nurse will meet with you and your family to review how to manage those side effects.
Advanced technology such as IMRT and IGRT delivers precision dosing thus minimizing damage to healthy tissue. Because radiation must pass thru the skin to destroy targeted cancer cells, individuals can expect skin changes in the treatment area.
No. Radiation delivered externally does not cause a person to be radioactive. There is no need to limit your visits to others.
Radiation therapy does not lead to general hair loss. An individual may experience hair loss in the area of their treatment.
If you are able to drive and have not been told to stop driving, then you may continue to drive yourself. If your condition changes, and you are taking narcotics, then you may not be able to drive. Ask your physician about this.
The answer to this question depends on how you are feeling, the type of treatment you are receiving and your type of work. Although it may be necessary for some cancer patients to take a leave of absence from work, many continue working throughout their treatment and recovery. Ask your doctor about what you can expect. Just remember, each patient handles and responds to treatment and recovery differently. It is also important to openly communicate your needs with your employer so that he/she may plan in case you need to decrease your hours, schedule an absence or have increased flexibility.
Call your primary care physician with issues, questions or concerns unrelated to your radiation therapy or cancer diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions About Skin Care

Do not wash the marks off or use soaps, creams, lotions, perfumes or deodorants in the area of the marks.
  • When taking a shower, let the water run gently over the marks.
  • Use only lukewarm water for bathing the treated area.
  • Do NOT use any soap in the area of the marks.
  • Do not rub or scrub the treated skin.
  • Pat marked area dry with a towel.
  • If marks are fading or coming off, notify your therapist at your next appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions About Infusion

Upon your arrival at the Infusion Center, a nurse or multi-care tech (MCT) will weigh you and check your vital signs. You will be assigned to a recliner or a comfortable chair. The nurse will then access your portacath or initiate an IV. Your blood will be collected at that time for the lab if it has not been drawn previously.

While you wait for your lab results, you may have a scheduled visit with your oncologist, you may visit the oncology library, or you may remain in the treatment area. Generally, lab results are received in 35 minutes or less.

For patients receiving chemotherapy, the pharmacy will only mix your medication once lab results are received. The length of this process varies by medication and by your treatment regimen. However, this process may take up to an hour. In the meantime, the nurse may initiate required intravenous fluids and pre-medications to control side effects.
Each chemotherapy medicine can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours to administer. Chemotherapy regimens may include anywhere from 1 to 4 different medications.
You may bring one guest with you into the Infusion Center. For the safety of our patients, we do not allow visitors who are ill or who have cold symptoms, or children age 12 and under.
Please try to eat a light meal before your treatment. A complimentary lunch and light snacks are provided for patients. You are welcome to bring your own snacks or meal.
Each treatment bay is equipped with a recliner for the patient and an upright chair for a guest. Televisions are conveniently located at various positions in the Center. Cell phones are allowed, as are music players as long as you use headphones. Wireless internet access is available. Warmed blankets are provided, though you may want to bring your own pillow. We recommend that you dress comfortably and in layers. Many patients bring books, needlework, crossword puzzles, etc. to help pass the time. Restrooms for patients are located in the Center. We ask that visitors/guests use the restrooms located in the waiting area.
While you are receiving treatment, a registered nurse will monitor you for any side effects or unanticipated reactions. A nurse call button will be within your reach at all times. Ask your nurse any questions you may have about your treatment, nutrition, side effects, or any other concerns you may have.