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Chemotherapy by Infusion

  • If you have chemotherapy by infusion, the medication is delivered to your bloodstream through a needle in a vein from your arm or a central line. You might also receive supportive medications or treatments (such as hydration) by infusion.

    Your first infusion appointment is generally the longest, so plan on a full day.


    The video below can help you understand what to expect and how to prepare for your first appointment.

  • What to Expect at Your First Infusion Appointment
    It is normal for patients to feel a little nervous about starting infusion treatment, also known as chemotherapy or chemo. This video walks you through what to expect on your first day of treatment.

  • What to expect at your infusion appointment

    • Laboratory Services: When you arrive for an infusion appointment, you will first visit Laboratory Services, where we will take a blood sample. This sample helps us determine your dose of chemotherapy and any other needed medicines.
    • Exam visit: After your blood sample is taken, you will meet with your health care team. This may include your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. Your team will review your treatment plan and check your bloodwork before prescribing your medications for the day. The nursing staff will check and recheck your height and weight. This is another important step that helps determine the dose of chemotherapy.
    • Waiting during preparation: Chemo is made to order every time you visit. This means it cannot be prepared ahead of time, so you may spend an hour or more in the waiting area. You may feel like nothing is happening, but this step is important for your safety. Our pharmacy and nurses are working together behind the scenes to prepare your medicine. It is prepared in a sterile environment and may need to be thawed or mixed with other medicines. After your medicine is prepared, it is checked and double-checked as it goes from pharmacy, to your infusion nurses, and then to you.
    • Infusion: When your chemo is ready, a member of the nursing staff will help you get settled in an infusion area. To begin the process, you may get premedication or fluids. These medications can help with side effects like nausea. The actual infusion process can take several hours, but you can use this time for your own activities, such as reading, watching TV, browsing the Internet, or even taking a nap.
    • After infusion: When your treatment is done, you may need to stay and be observed for a short time, to make sure you feel OK. Your nurse will meet with you to review potential side effects, tell you what to expect at home, and know what to do if you have a side effect.
    • Before you go home: Make sure you have a list of your future appointments and the doctor's phone number. You may have questions and need to call us. We have nurses who work with your doctor, are knowledgeable about your treatment plan, and can help with your questions.

    Tips to remember

    • Bring a friend or family member with you to your infusion appointment. This is important, because you may feel tired at the end of the day. It's good to have someone who can get you home safely. All infusion areas have a seat for a friend or family member.
    • Drink plenty of fluids and wear layers of comfortable clothing. Consider wearing short sleeves if you will need to get an IV in your arm. If you have a central line, such as a port, wear a button-down shirt.
    • Bring items from home to help pass the time – like books, headphones, or a laptop. All patient areas have wireless Internet access and reading materials. Some have snacks. We also offer iPads for patients to borrow during treatment visits.
    • Helpful resources: If you get your chemo in one of Dana-Farber's infusion areas, your nurse will give you a folder with educational materials about chemotherapy, including two booklets from the National Cancer Institute: Chemotherapy and You and Eating Hints. These are also available from the Blum Patient and Family Resource Center on the first floor of Dana-Farber's Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.
    • Friends or family members who are sick should not accompany you to infusion appointments. If friends or family are sick, please ask them to stay at home. This includes persons who have a cold or flu and persons exposed to a contagious illness, such as chicken pox. Talk with your cancer team if you have questions.