Pattern of Chemotherapy

Just wondering if anyone can tell me the pattern of treatment.  I am having FEC-T for 6 cycles.  I am a bit confused.  I have the pre-chemo talk Monday but don’t want to look like a numpty in front of the others asking such a stupid question.


Initially I was told by the nurse I would have 3 weekly treatments on the same day each week and then a week off before the next cycle.  The paperwork I was given by the oncologist said Day 1 and Day 21, so it reads as 2 treatments not 3 and there is no mention of the week break.  


What I am trying to work out,  will the cycles be 21 days or a month in duration?  My aim is to return to work after chemo until my surgery date.  If it isn’t a 4 week cycle, I gain 6 weeks so will be back in work sooner and money won’t be such a problem for us.  My pay drops massively around that time.

Hi Landygirl


I’m afraid I can’t definitely answer your question as I had EC (a 3-weekly cycle) and paclitaxel (weekly) over 21 weeks (needed a break). EC is definitely given on Day 1 and 20 days’ break so I’d assume FEC is the same and your oncologist’s paperwork is correct. But what I wanted to say is that feeling a numpty should be the last thing on your mind. Oncologists understand oncology because they have had years of training - why should you grasp it when your head is reeling from the shock of the diagnosis?


Based on my experience, I’d advise you to take someone with you to the appointment. Work out your questions beforehand and your companion can tick them off, make notes (essential) and pipe up if you forget. You may be the type of person who needs to know everything, you may be like me and think let’s just get on with it and ask the minimum but most people find they forget much of what they hear so a PA is very helpful. I found a trusted friend was better than my husband as he was more emotionally involved (ie not much practical use at that stage).


Things will be carefully explained to you and you’ll be asked repeatedly if you understand x,y or z because you have to sign forms of consent.


Returning to work will depend very much on how you respond to the treatments. Some people almost carry on as normal. Some are reduced to zombie state. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern linked to physical health, age or willpower (the last of which I think should be banned from our thinking). It’s great that you have such a positive outlook but be prepared to be flexible as it’s both a physical and an emotional assault, neither of which is predictable.


Macmillan runs an excellent support service around money matters and employment rights (you will be registered as disabled under the Equality Act from the date of diagnosis so that may provide you with more protection than you’ve calculated) and you should be able to get their leaflet from your hospital. Ask what support services the hospital has - there may be a Maggie’s centre or a Macmillan base and it’s good to know there’s someone who knows what you’re up against and can advise accordingly. There’s usually great services for free like reflexology, acupuncture and counselling.


Best of luck with the chemotherapy,

Jan x

Hi Landygirl


I had 6 cycles of FEC-T. Three treatments of FEC followed by three treatments of T.  Mine were three weeks apart, which I understand is the norm, so if your first treatment was say Monday the first of the month your next treatment would be Monday 22nd and so on. Literally every three weeks for six cycles, so yes the cycles are 21 days.


Hope that helps.

Hi Landygirl


I had EC-T (they dont do the F part where I live) over 6 cycles and like you as I was totally confused about the whole thing when I started. I found chemo do-able but it does still have its challenges and I can’t emphasise enough that you really do have to look after yourself and put yourself first, in front of work, family, friends the lot. 


My first session was 10th July and my final one was 23rd October so it took 4 1/2 months (I had surgery first).


I really sailed through the first 3 chemo’s - the EC’s drugs - very minimal sickness due to the extensive ‘goody bag’ of drugs they give you, my hair started shedding exactly 17 days after the first chemo so shaved it to a no.2 to stop if from covering the house! I was still able to do most day to day things - but you have to remember that it totally blasts your immune system so even if you do feel up to working, you really need to be able to work away from people because if you get an infection you could end up very poorly and having furthr chemo’s delayed - thus leading to chemo dragging on even longer.


I then moved on to the ‘T’ drug - taxotere or docetaxel, this was a different story, it caused joint discomfort, mega chemo brain and food tasted awful, and even though I finished on 23rd october I really wasnt physically well enough to return to work until January so chemo kept me off work for 6 months in total. (I’m self employed so was able to get a little bit of financial help from the DWP via the ‘New Style ESA’ even though I had savings).


Everyone reacts differently to chemo, and the emotional side of BC, you might be fine and you won’t know until you get there - just take each cycle one at a time so you dont overwhelm yourself, this forum is a fantastic way to get support, advice, have a moan, no-one know exactly how you feel cos you are you, but we are all here to help each other as best we can.


I wish you well for your next part of the journey


Love Helly xx