Receiving chemotherapy

Most patients receive their chemotherapy as outpatients or day patients, visiting the hospital on the day of treatment

Your length of stay in hospital will depend upon the type of tests, assessment, chemotherapy preparation and treatment you need.

If you are a day patient, you are likely to be at the hospital between four and six hours, sometimes longer if the treatment is complex, or if you are taking part in a research study.

Before you are given your chemotherapy, you will usually have blood tests and see the doctor. As you may have to wait while your chemotherapy drugs are being prepared, you may want to bring someone with you, a book to read or something else to occupy you while you wait.

A step-by-step guide to having chemotherapy

Your tests and assessment

When you arrive on the day unit or ward, you will:

  • have a blood test to check your blood count is satisfactory before you receive your chemotherapy
  • see the doctor or nurse (possibly the day before treatment is given) to check you are well enough to be given chemotherapy, and to check your chemotherapy prescription.

Chemotherapy preparation and treatment

  • Your chemotherapy will be prepared by the Pharmacy (if you have already had your blood tests and assessment your chemotherapy may have been prepared in advance).
  • Your chemotherapy treatment will be given.
  • You will be given drugs to take home (if appropriate).
  • You will be given your next appointment.

Sometimes you might need to stay in hospital overnight when treatment is first started or if several drugs and fluid infusions are to be given. In these circumstances, a 24-to-48-hour hospital stay is usually all that is needed.

There are special treatments which require longer admissions and, if necessary, they will be explained to you.

If your chemotherapy is given by continuous infusion at home you will be asked to attend hospital for regular check-ups every few weeks.