How should I prepare for chemotherapy?

Getting information about treatment and its side effects can help you to plan and feel more in control. You can ask your cancer doctor or nurse:

  • if the chemotherapy will affect your ability to have children – you can ask to see a fertility specialist
  • if the drugs will cause hair loss – you can see a wig specialist before this happens
  • if it is safe to take vitamins or supplements
  • who you can talk to if you need help at home or with childcare.

You can also talk to family or friends about what they can do to help. You may have to arrange time off from work or education.

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about any tests, scans or check-ups you may need before chemotherapy begins.

Preparing for chemotherapy

Having information about the chemotherapy treatment and its side effects can help you get organised and feel more in control. There are things you can do to help you feel prepared.


Your fertility

Some chemotherapy drugs affect your fertility (the ability to get pregnant or father a child). If this is a concern for you, it is very important to talk to your cancer doctor before treatment starts. Sometimes your fertility can be preserved by storing sperm or storing eggs before chemotherapy begins.

Fertility preservation was a stressful experience, but necessary. So I persevered and now have 15 lovely eggs stored and ready for when or if I need them.

Jenna


Getting a wig

If the chemotherapy drugs cause hair loss or thinning you might decide to have a wig fitted. You can have the wig fitted before your hair falls out. This means you can match it to your own colour and style.

An image of two woman looking in the mirror at a hair salon.

Choosing and styling a wig after hair loss

In this video, Amanda visits TrendCo to choose a wig, which renowned stylist and founder of My New Hair, Trevor Sorbie MBE, styles for her.

About our cancer information videos

Choosing and styling a wig after hair loss

In this video, Amanda visits TrendCo to choose a wig, which renowned stylist and founder of My New Hair, Trevor Sorbie MBE, styles for her.

About our cancer information videos


Dental checks

Your doctor or nurse may advise you to have a dental check-up before starting chemotherapy. If your teeth or dentures are in good condition, this reduces the risk of possible problems with your mouth during treatment.


Taking other drugs, vitamins or supplements

Always tell your cancer doctor about any prescription and other drugs, vitamins or supplements you are taking or plan to take. Some drugs may interact with chemotherapy drugs and make treatment less effective.


Work or education

Before starting chemotherapy, it is a good idea to think about your work or education. This means you can make arrangements for time off during treatment.


Help at home

Chemotherapy makes you tired, so you may need help with day-to-day tasks. Although it can be hard to ask for help, family and friends are usually keen to do whatever they can. If you live alone or are caring for someone else, you can ask to talk to the hospital social worker about getting help.

We're here for you

For information, support, or just a chat, we're here.

We're here for you

For information, support, or just a chat, we're here.


Help with children

If you have children, you may need help with taking and picking them up from school or clubs. Family and friends usually want to help, so accept their offers or ask for any help you need. It is also useful to know who you can contact at short notice to look after your children. We have more information about childcare when you have cancer.


Tests and scans

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse will talk to you about any tests, scans or check-ups you need before chemotherapy begins.

Scans and x-rays

Some chemotherapy drugs can affect organs, such as the heart or the kidneys. You may need tests to measure how well these organs are working before you have chemotherapy. For example, if you are having drugs that can affect the heart, you may have an electrocardiogram (ECG). This measures how well your heart is working. Or you may have an echocardiogram (ECHO), which uses soundwaves to create a picture of the heart.

Some people may need further scans or x-rays to find out more about the extent of the cancer (its stage) before chemotherapy.

Height and weight

A nurse will check your height and weight. Your cancer doctor and pharmacist use this information to work out the right dose of chemotherapy for you.

Blood tests

You will have a blood test before each cycle of chemotherapy. To save time, sometimes your blood may be checked 1 to 2 days before chemotherapy. This can be done:

  • at the hospital where you are having chemotherapy
  • by your GP or practice nurse
  • at a hospital closer to your home.

The results will be ready for you when you go to have your chemotherapy.

Pregnancy test

Women may have a pregnancy test before starting treatment.

Back to Being treated with chemotherapy

Central lines

A central line is a long, thin hollow tube. It is inserted into a vein in your chest to give chemotherapy and other drugs.

Implantable ports

An implantable port is a tube with a rubber disc at the end. It is inserted into a vein to give chemotherapy or other medicines.

PICC lines

A PICC line is a long, thin, flexible tube known as a catheter. It’s put into the arm to give chemotherapy and other medicines.