New Website Demystifies Chemotherapy

You’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Or maybe you’re a parent with a child who’s just been diagnosed. And now you’re being asked to make some very important decisions about treatment and care. But who can think clearly after such news? And what is chemotherapy, anyway? Your doctor explained it; but honestly, you don’t remember a word of the discussion.

A cancer diagnosis may not always mentally immobilize someone, but it can be a life-altering piece of news. And although many medical centers do their best to educate patients about treatments, it’s a complicated topic. Sometimes the more information they give, the more confusing things become.

Chemotherapy—the administration of anti-cancer drugs—is a staple of most cancer treatment programs. But what exactly does it do? How is it administered and for how long? What are the side effects? What happens after chemotherapy ends?

These are some of the many questions addressed by, a new website endorsed by Scott Hamilton, the figure skating champion and Olympic gold medalist who was diagnosed with testicular cancer five years ago. The site is an educational resource for people interested in learning about and understanding chemotherapy, particularly those who are newly diagnosed with cancer or those who have family members or loved ones who are newly diagnosed. is an outgrowth of Hamilton’s association with The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center—where he underwent treatment—and with Ruth Fritskey, R.N., M.S.N., oncology clinical nurse specialist and content developer for the Taussig Cancer Center’s website. During the past 10 years, Fritskey has also played a key role in developing patient education material for Cleveland Clinic cancer patients. Both Fritskey and Hamilton recognized the need for a resource that could demystify for cancer patients the chemotherapy process, from the administration of the drugs to understanding and managing the side effects.

Hamilton is not your average human, nor was he the typical cancer patient. He won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1982 and ’83, the World Figure Skating Championships four consecutive times (1980-1984), an Olympic gold medal for figure skating at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic and World Figure Skating Halls of Fame in 1990. When he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997—by his own account—he joked about it; but then he steeled himself for a fight.

At least in one way, Hamilton was like most cancer patients—he had no idea what he was facing with regard to treatment. He endured several rounds of chemotherapy and a surgery, and today remains cancer free; but when the process began, he was basically in the dark.

In interviews conducted after the Dec. 1, 2002, launch of the site, Hamilton said that his chemotherapy experience spurred the interest in getting behind a resource that "makes information available in way that people can really understand."

Fritskey oversaw the development of the written material for the website, a process that included getting feedback before and during the effort from a focus group of cancer patients. Her hope is that a year from now, is the web destination for anyone seeking information about chemotherapy. She said that most patients diagnosed with cancer have two initial questions: "What’s going to happen to me?" and "What are the treatment side effects?", she says, answers these and many other questions.

" is an educational tool for any patient, any family member, any friend who just wants to understand the whole process of chemotherapy, which has a terrible reputation," says Fritskey. "We want to take some of the fear out of the process of cancer treatment, and take some of the mystery out of it." features include:

The site also includes a section on complementary medicine, which consists of additional forms of treatment given in combination with chemotherapy and traditional Western medicine. Examples of complementary medicine include massage, relaxation and holistic therapies, which can play a major role in symptom relief. was developed under the auspices of The Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative (the Cancer Alliance for Research Education and Survivorship). The CARES project is a joint effort involving the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, where Hamilton received his cancer treatment. The goal is to promote cancer awareness and raise money for cancer research. The website is sponsored by Ortho Biotech, a pharmaceutical company.

The site encourages feedback from visitors and provides a mechanism to do so. Two weeks after the site was launched, according to Fritskey, had collected 156 positive messages through the feedback link and reported 170,000 hits. "That tells me we’re on the right track," she says.

You can check out the new site at

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional health information, please contact the Center for Consumer Health Information at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771. If you prefer, you may visit or This document was last reviewed on: 12/20/2001