Where can you have chemotherapy?

You usually have chemotherapy drugs into a vein (intravenous) given to you in a chemotherapy day unit or clinic.  A nurse will tell what to expect and give you the chemotherapy. You may be there for a few hours so take some things with you to help pass the time

When you’re finished the nurse or pharmacist will give you drugs, such as anti-sickness drugs, steroids, or sometimes chemotherapy tablets, to take at home.

If your chemotherapy treatment is more complex, you may need to stay in hospital to have it done.  Your nurse will explain how long you are likely to be in for. Occasionally, people have chemotherapy in their own home given by a specialist nurse, but this isn’t widely available.

You will be given telephone numbers to call if you feel unwell at home or need advice on side effects. This will include ‘out of hours’ contact details for evenings, overnight or the weekend.  Keep the numbers safe and follow the contact advice you have been given.

Where is chemotherapy given?

Usually chemotherapy is given in a chemotherapy day unit or an out patient clinic. But depending on the type of chemotherapy some people may need to have it during a stay in hospital.

Chemotherapy day unit

Chemotherapy drugs into a vein (intravenous) are usually given to you by nurses in a chemotherapy day unit. They take blood samples, give you your chemotherapy and monitor you for side effects. They also provide information and support to you and your family.

The nurses try to make sure the unit has a calm atmosphere and the environment is comfortable. There are usually recliner chairs and some beds if you need more rest. You can usually have a relative or friend to stay with you until you’re ready to go home. There may be volunteers who help with drinks or snacks when you need them. Some units also have complementary therapists who provide therapies like reflexology

Having the chemotherapy drugs may take from half an hour to a few hours. But you may also have to wait for blood results, your chemotherapy drugs to be made up by the pharmacy, or to see your cancer doctor. The nurses will try to keep any waiting to a minimum.

You can take some things with you to help pass the time and feel more comfortable:

  • soft, cosy blanket, slippers etc
  • MP3 player or personal stereo – relaxing music, relaxation or visualisation
  • reading material – newspaper, magazines, book, e-reader
  • some favourite snacks in case you get hungry
  • knitting, cards, etc.

After you’ve had your chemotherapy the nurses may give you drugs to take at home or a prescription for the hospital pharmacy. This may include anti-sickness drugs, steroids or any chemotherapy tablets you need to take.

Chemotherapy in hospital

Some chemotherapy treatments are more complex and this may mean you need to stay in hospital to have your treatment. Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will explain more about this.

Chemotherapy at home

Sometimes, specialist chemotherapy nurses visit at home to give intravenous chemotherapy. This service is only available in some parts of the UK and only with certain chemotherapy treatments. Your cancer doctor can tell you more about this.

How to contact the hospital

You will be given telephone numbers to contact the hospital if you have a temperature feel unwell or need advice on side effects. This should include ‘out of hours’ contact details for evenings, overnight or the weekend. Some cancer centres have a 24 hour number you can call anytime for advice.

It’s very important to keep the numbers somewhere safe (save them in your mobile phone for example) and to follow the contact advice you’ve been given by the chemotherapy nurse or cancer doctor.

Back to Chemotherapy explained

What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is usually given by injection or as tablets.

Your feelings

You may experience difficult feelings while having chemotherapy treatment. Talking these over can be helpful.

Who might I meet?

A team of medical specialists will be involved throughout the course of your chemotherapy treatment.