Taking Oral Anti-Cancer Medications at Home

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

Your healthcare provider has prescribed a cancer treatment that you will take by mouth. It may be in the form of a pill, capsule, tablet, or liquid. It is important to remember that oral chemotherapy can be just as toxic as when given in a vein and it is important to follow some safety precautions. This article will provide tips to keep you, your caregiver, and family safe.

  • It is very important that you take your medication as scheduled. Missed doses, taking the wrong amount, or taking the medication incorrectly can make the treatment less effective.
  • Swallow your medication whole. Do not chew, break, or open pills/capsules/tablets. If you are unable to swallow the medication, talk to your nurse, or pharmacist about other ways you can take the medication.
  • Take your dose at about the same time each day. Follow any instructions provided about whether to take with food or on an empty stomach.
  • Wash your hands before and after taking your medication.
  • Always double and triple-check the dose before taking it. You may need to take more than one pill or combine pills of different strengths to make the dose you need.
  • Be sure you understand the schedule you should follow. Some anticancer medications are taken in "cycles", with some days off from treatment during each cycle.
  • Store your medication in the original, labeled container at room temperature and in a dry location (Unless otherwise directed by your provider or pharmacist). You should not store this medication in a pillbox.
  • Keep containers out of reach of children and pets.
  • If a caregiver prepares your dose for you, they should either wear gloves or pour the pills directly from their container into the cap or a small cup to hand to you. They should avoid touching the pills. They should always wash their hands before and after giving you the medication. Pregnant or nursing women should not prepare the dose for you.
  • If you vomit after taking the dose, call your oncology team for instructions.
  • If you miss a dose, follow the instructions below from your team. Do not take a double dose unless you are told to do so. Contact your oncology team if you miss a dose for further instructions.
  • Ask your oncology team where to return any unused medication for disposal. Do not flush down the toilet or throw in the trash.
  • Read Home Safety for Patients Receiving Chemotherapy for information about safety while receiving chemotherapy.

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