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.

How to take the drug

  • Swallow each tablet or capsule whole; do not chew them.
  • 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're 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 the pharmacist about other ways to take your medication.
  • If you're unable to swallow pills and if you are instructed to dissolve the chemotherapy medication in liquid, use disposable cups and dispose of them in a biohazard bag that will be provided to you. Bring this bag back to the clinic for proper disposal.
  • If you are unable to keep the pill down, call your physician.

Please note: if you are on a clinical trial, you will be given special instructions 


Most oral chemotherapy medicine is stored at room temperature, away from excessive 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 or pets.

Safe management of oral chemotherapy in the home

This information is provided to help your caregiver avoid exposure to hazardous body waste in your home. Special care must be taken to prevent the patient's body waste from coming into accidental contact with the caregiver.

Oral chemotherapy stays in your body for hours or even days, and is excreted in urine and stool. If you vomit after taking the chemotherapy, the vomitus may also contain some of the chemotherapy.

Body wastes

You may use the toilet (septic tank or city sewage) as usual. Wash you hands well with soap and water after using the toilet, and wash your skin if urine, vomit or stool gets on other parts of your body.


Wash hands thoroughly before and after giving oral chemotherapy medications. Caregivers should wear gloves when giving oral chemotherapy medications.

When handling patient waste, flush the toilet twice after using and continue to do so for 48 hours after the last chemotherapy dose. Always wear gloves in disposing of urinal or commode waste and cleaning of equipment. Wash your skin if urine, vomit or stool gets on it.


Your caregiver should wear disposable gloves when handling sheets or clothing that has been soiled with your body waste. Soiled items should be kept in a plastic bag prior to being washed, and should be 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 any body waste is cleaned from the toilet.

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

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

What if I use a bedpan, urinal, or commode?

Your caregiver should wear gloves when emptying the wastes. Rinse the container with water after each use, and wash it with soap and water at least once a day.

What if I vomit?

Your caregiver should wear gloves when emptying the basin. Rinse it with water after each use. Wash the basin at least once a day with soap and water.

Is it safe to dispose of chemotherapy in the trash?

Normally, you will not have extra oral chemotherapy medicine, but if you do, return it to your doctor or nurse for disposal. Do not throw the left over medication into the garbage.

(Source: This information was adapted from Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Guidelines and Recommendations for Practice, published in 2005 by the Oncology Nursing Society.) 

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