Home Safety for Patients Receiving Anti-Cancer Medications
You may see your nurse wear gloves, a gown, eye protection, or more while administering your cancer treatment (anti-cancer medications). These items are called personal protective equipment (PPP). This equipment keeps your nurse safe from being exposed to the medications.
You, your caregivers, and family members must also keep yourselves safe from exposure. This handout will review how to safely handle anti-cancer medicines and your body waste when at home.
What are anti-cancer medications?
Anti-cancer medications can be chemotherapy (given by IV, by mouth, or another route), biotherapy, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy. Though this article refers to them as anti-cancer medications, these medications may be used to treat things other than cancer.
Handling Body Waste
Many anti-cancer medications exit the body through urine, stool, vomit, and blood for 48 hours after your treatment has stopped. The guidelines listed below should be followed during that time:
- After using the toilet, close the lid and flush twice. Men should urinate sitting down to avoid splashing.
- After using the toilet, wash your hands well with soap and water. If any fluids splashed on your skin, clean the area with soap and water.
- Wear gloves when cleaning the toilet or cleaning up any urine, stool, or vomit, or changing diapers/incontinence pads. Wash your hands with the gloves on, then remove the gloves, dispose of them in the trash, and wash your hands again.
- If using a bedpan or urinal, wear gloves and dump contents into the toilet close to the water to limit splashing. While wearing the gloves, wash the container with soap and water after each use.
- Diapers can be thrown out in the regular trash.
- If you have an ostomy, wear gloves when emptying. Wash the collection bag once a day with soap and water.
Handling Trash or Laundry
When handling trash or laundry that has touched anti-cancer medications or body fluids within 48 hours after treatment:
- Wear gloves to handle contaminated trash or laundry. Wash your hands before and after removing the gloves.
- Contaminated trash can be placed in special bags if you were supplied with these or doubled bagged in plastic, leak-proof bags and placed in your regular trash.
- If possible, wash contaminated laundry right away. If you cannot wash it right away, place it in a leak-proof plastic bag and wash it as soon as possible.
- Wash contaminated laundry separate from other laundry, using regular laundry detergent and warm or hot water.
If anti-cancer medications or body fluids are spilled or splashed within 48 hours after treatment:
- Wear gloves to clean up the spill/splash.
- Wipe up the spill with paper towels.
- Clean the area with soap and water. Rinse using paper towels.
- Throw out trash in specially marked containers (if you were given them) or double bag in leak-proof plastic bags.
- Wash hands before and after removing gloves.
Anti-cancer medications can also be excreted (put out) in body fluids, such as semen and vaginal fluid. To prevent exposure of your partner to these fluids:
- Use condoms during oral sex and intercourse for 48 hours after treatment. This applies to both the person receiving chemotherapy and their partner.
- Effective birth control should be used to prevent pregnancy while on anti-cancer medications and for several months or years after therapy, depending on the medication. Anti-cancer medications can have harmful side effects to the fetus, especially in the first trimester. Menstrual cycles can become irregular during and after treatment, so you may not know if you are at a time in your cycle when you could become pregnant or if you are actually pregnant.
Safety for My Family
- Hugging and kissing are safe for you and your partner or family members.
- You can visit, sit with, hug, and kiss the children in your life.
- You can be around pregnant women, though (if possible) they should not clean up any of your body fluids after you have treatment.
- You can share a bathroom with others. If body fluids splash on the toilet, wear gloves, and clean the area with soap and water before others use the toilet.
Home safety while taking anti-cancer medications is important. If you have any questions or concerns talk to your pharmacist or provider.
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