Important Instructions for Oral Chemotherapy

Your doctor has prescribed chemotherapy that you will take orally. Your medication will either be a capsule or a tablet.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to take the drug, if it should be taken with or without food, and if you should avoid certain foods when you are taking the drug.

You will receive printed sheets of information about the drug, which explain the possible side effects and how to prevent or treat them at home.

You will be told:

  • What side effects to report immediately to your doctor or nurse.
  • What to do if you miss a dose.
  • What to do if you vomit less than 30 minutes after swallowing the drug.
  • What to do if you are unable to swallow your pills or capsule.
  • What to do with leftover pills and capsules when you are no longer taking the drug.
  • How to store your drug.


If refrigerated, do not place medications on the shelf nearest the freezer. Place in a zip-lock bag in the crisper bin.

  • Do not store medications in a bathroom with a shower because high humidity can damage the drug.

Important safety concerns when taking oral chemotherapy drugs at home:

  • Keep all drugs in a safe place away from children and pets.
  • There is no danger to others from usual contact with you by hugging, kissing, or sharing food.
  • Wash your hands before and after you touch your pills.
  • Caregivers should not touch the pills with bare hands and should wear latex gloves.

After chemotherapy treatment, the chemotherapy drug usually remains in the body for either three or seven days, depending upon the properties of the drug. The drug is excreted in the urine, stool, vomit, semen, and vaginal secretions during this time.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you how many days your body fluids are possibly harmful if direct skin contact occurs. If urine, stool, or vomit come in contact with your hands or other body parts, wash the area immediately with soap and water. If caretakers have contact with your body wastes, they should wear latex gloves. After using the toilet, flush it immediately. If you have young children or pets in the home that may have contact with the toilet, flush the toilet twice. The use of condoms is recommended for three or seven days after therapy to protect your partner from exposure to chemotherapy drugs in your body fluids.

If you are unable to swallow pills:

  • Ask your doctor if you can crush your pills or open your capsules.
  • Find an area that is away from air flow such as from a fan, air conditioner, or window, and away from where food is prepared.
  • Cover the work area with a plastic, disposable cloth or mat.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Mix crushed pills or the contents of an open capsule with applesauce, juice, or flavored syrup.
  • After mixing, place all items used to mix the medication into a zip-lock bag and then place the sealed bag in a sealed, hard plastic container such as a detergent bottle. This includes the open capsule pieces, the stirrers, gloves, mat, and any other clean-up materials.
  • Throw the container in your household trash.

If you have questions, please contact your doctor or nurse.

Revised June 2011