A chemotherapy treatment plan is a one-page document. It should include:
Diagnosis: cancer site, histology and stage;
Goals of therapy, anticipated benefits;
Name of the regimen, the component drugs in the regimen, and the starting dosages;
Duration of treatment and number of planned cycles;
Strategy for assessing response;
Side effects and precautions*;
Assessment of risks and benefits; and alternatives.
Ideally, the document should be reviewed with the patient and his or her family member when a treatment is started. Because patients are often overwhelmed by information at the time of diagnosis and have difficulty assimilating information after receiving bad news, having a written treatment plan that could be referred to later by patients, family members, and potentially by other physicians, is a logical and sensible strategy. This is particularly relevant for non-English speakers and low-income patients, whose cancer care is often fragmented across providers or rotating trainees.
A chemotherapy treatment summary is a succinct, ideally one-page document prepared at the end of a course of treatment or when a patient completes adjuvant therapy when a regimen is discontinued because of toxicity. The summary might be appended to the treatment plan. The treatment summary should include:
The duration of treatment or the number of treatments planned and the number actually delivered;
Whether any drugs were dropped from the regimen;
The treatment summary is not designed to review every side effect of every agent since this information can be better provided on “chemotherapy fact cards” and through provision of other educational materials about what to anticipate during treatment. It is critical to emphasize that these are synopses, not comprehensive overviews.