Oral chemotherapy fact sheet


Oral chemotherapy medicines are given by mouth in the form of capsules, tablets, or liquid. These safety tips will help you understand what to do when you are taking oral chemotherapy.

Please note: If you are on a clinical trial, you may be given special instructions.

How to take this drug

  • Swallow each tablet or capsule whole. Do not break, crush, or chew.
  • Prepare your drug away from food and food prep areas.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and go back to your regular dosing schedule.
  • Do not double the dose.
  • If you are on a clinical trial, you will be given special instructions if you miss a dose.
  • If you are unable to swallow the pill, speak with your nurse or pharmacist about other ways to take your medication.
  • If you vomit or throw up your medication, call your physician for further instructions.
  • Wash your hands after taking the medication. Avoid handling crushed or broken pills (tablets or capsules).

Storage

  • Most oral chemotherapy medicine is stored at room temperature, away from excess heat and moisture. You will be told if the medication you are taking needs special storage or handling.
  • Keep this medicine in its original container, in a safe place, away from other family medications. All medications need to be kept out of the reach of children and pets.

Disposal

  • If you have unused oral chemotherapy pills (tablets or capsules), please return them to the pharmacy where the prescription was filled. Do not flush down the toilet, dump in the sink, or throw away in the trash.

Safe handling of body waste in the home after chemotherapy

  • Chemotherapy stays in the body for hours or even days, and is found in vomit, urine, stool, and sweat (body wastes). Special care must be taken to prevent the patient’s body waste from coming into accidental contact with the patient or caregiver.

Body wastes

Patient and caregiver: 

  • You can use the toilet (septic tank or city sewage) as usual. There is no research to support double flushing to prevent accidental contact (although this may be suggested for certain medications). Ask your doctor or nurse what they suggest for your medication.
  • Wash your hands well with soap and water after using the toilet. If urine, vomit, or stool gets on your body, wash with soap and water. Always wear gloves when cleaning equipment or disposing waste from a urinal or commode.
  • Pregnant caregivers should not handle patient body waste.

Laundry

  • Always wear disposable gloves when handling sheets or clothes that have been soiled with body waste.
  • Soiled items should be kept and washed separately from the other laundry.

Questions and answers

Is it safe for my family to use the same toilet as I do? 

  • Yes, as long as all body waste is cleaned from the toilet.

What should I do if I do not have control of my bladder or bowels? 

  • To absorb urine or stool, use a disposable, plastic-backed pad, diaper, or sheet. Change it immediately when soiled. Then wash skin with soap and water.
  • If you have an ostomy, you or your caregiver may want to wear gloves when emptying or changing appliances.

If you have other questions, please talk with your doctor or nurse. 

The materials included on this page are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

Printer-friendly PDF 


 
  • Email
  • Print
  • Share
  • Text
Highlight Glossary Terms
  • All About Oral and Infusion Chemotherapy

    • What is oral chemotherapy? How does it differ from standard infusion chemotherapy? What do you need to know before beginning either type of chemotherapy? How do you manage side effects? Learn the answers to your questions about both types of chemotherapy.
  • Medications A – Z

  • Oral chemo diaries

    • open pill bottleAre you taking chemotherapy in pill form? These printable diaries can help you keep track of your doses and side effects to share with your doctor.
  • Compliance to Oral Cancer Therapies

    • Donna Berry from the Compliance to Oral Cancer Therapies video In this video, Donna L. Berry, PhD, RN, AOCN, FAAN, and Director of the Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Nursing Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, discusses the challenges and compliance issues that are associated with the use of oral therapies for cancer.