Preparing for At-Home Oral Chemotherapy Treatment

Many types of chemotherapy are given intravenously, meaning through an IV or by injection, into your bloodstream. But there are types of chemotherapy that patients take in pill or liquid form by mouth in the comfort of their own home. These medicines are just as strong and work just as well as cancer medications you receive at a hospital. 

How to Take Oral Chemotherapy Safely

  • Tell all every doctor treating you, including your dentist, that you're taking oral chemotherapy.
  • It's very important that follow the prescription directions exactly. Be sure to take the right dose, at the right time. We suggest keeping a diary of your dosage times and taking notes on any side effects you may have, so you don't have to rely on your memory.
  • Refill your prescription as soon as possible, since it may take a little longer to have it filled, especially if the prescription is coming from a specialty pharmacy. 

Handling Oral Chemotherapy 

  • Caregivers must wear gloves at all times when handling oral chemo medicines, and throw away the gloves after each use. Be sure to wash your hands before you put on the gloves and after you take them off, to ensure no medicine has gotten on your skin. If chemotherapy gets on your skin, wash the area well with soap and water, and let your treatment team know as soon as possible.
  • Keep the medication in the original containers you got from the pharmacy. 
  • Store the medication away from heat, sunlight or moisture. Exposure to these elements may degrade the medicine, making it less effective. Follow the storage instructions exactly.
  • If your eyes come into contact with chemotherapy, flush them right away with a large amount of lukewarm water for at least five minutes and call your treatment team.

Taking Oral Chemotherapy

  • Do not crush, cut or chew your pills. Swallow them whole. If you have trouble swallowing medicine, be sure to tell your doctor or nurse. 
  • Do not eat or drink grapefruit, or any other product that has grapefruit in it. The ingredients in grapefruit can prevent your body from fully absorbing the medication. 

Keeping Loved Ones Safe

  • Chemotherapy leaves the body through urine, stool, vomit and blood. Follow these safety tips to protect you and your family during chemotherapy and for 48 hours after your treatment ends:
    • When you go to the bathroom, flush the toilet twice after you’re done, with the lid down. If possible, use a separate bathroom.
    • Wash your hands well with soap and water after using the toilet or cleaning up body fluids.
    • Clean bedpans, urinals, commodes or basins with soap and water, while wearing disposable gloves.
    • Wash any laundry with body fluids or chemotherapy on it with warm water and separately from other clothing and laundry.
  • Always keep oral chemotherapy medicine away from children and pets. 
  • Pregnant women, or women planning on becoming pregnant, should not handle these medications. 
  • If you are sexually active, be sure to practice safe sex during your entire course of treatment, and use barrier protection like condoms.

Side Effects

Side effects may include:

  • Hair loss
  • Skin changes like rashes or skin sensitivity
  • Mouth sores
  • Easy, or unexplained bruising
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation

When to Call Fox Chase

Call Fox Chase right away if you're experiencing:

  • A temperature reading of 100.5 or higher
  • Flu-like symptoms like a fever, chills, cough, or a sore throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain when you urinate
  • Blood in your urine or stool

It's very important that you talk to your team about your side effects. You must call your team as soon as the side effects start. Do not wait for the symptoms to get worse. In many cases, it’s possible to reverse some symptoms if they’re reported early.


When to Call 9-1-1

If you have trouble breathing or shortness of breath, or chest pain, call 9-1-1 immediately.

When to go to the Emergency Room

If you're unable to eat or drink, or have other uncontrolled, or unexpected side effects, go to the Emergency Room. If you have any of these symptoms during your infusion appointment, get the attention of a nurse immediately. Temple University Hospital – Jeanes Campus functions as the Emergency Room for Fox Chase Cancer Center. Please go to Jeanes Campus or to your nearest hospital with an Emergency Room.

Contacting Fox Chase

During weekday daytime hours (Monday–Friday, 8:30am–5pm), call 215-728-4300. You may talk to someone live, or your call will go to voicemail. Please leave a message with your name, medical record number, date of birth and the reason for your call. A nurse will call you back on the same day. Be sure to tell us the best phone number to reach you.

If you have a medical emergency on an evening or weekend, call Fox Chase Cancer Center’s on-call system at 215-728-6900.