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Intravenous Chemotherapy


Intravenous (IV) chemotherapy (chemo) is one way to receive cancer-fighting medicine. An IV catheter may be placed in a large vein in your arm or upper chest. It is used to give the medicine into your blood. Some IV catheters can stay in place for many months to years.



  • Antinausea medicine: This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and to help prevent vomiting.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to return for follow-up tests and treatments. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Chemo safety:

  • Use caution with body fluids: Chemo medicine will be in your body fluids, including your blood, urine, bowel movements, and spit. Do not let others touch any of your body fluids. The medicine can harm their skin and possibly other organs. Ask for instructions on handling chemo.
  • Wash your hands if you get chemo on them: The medicine can harm your skin and eyes. Ask for instructions for what to do if the medicine gets on your skin or in your eyes.
  • Dispose of medicine and supplies properly: You may be given special containers to get rid of the excess medicine and the supplies after you are done using them.


  • Prevent illness: Stay away from people who are sick. Stay away from small children who have recently been vaccinated for chicken pox or polio. Ask for more instructions about protecting yourself from illness or infection.
  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Drink extra liquids to prevent dehydration. You will also need to replace fluid if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments.

Home care:

You may be able to get chemo at home. A healthcare provider specially trained in caring for you at home may teach you how to care for your IV catheter.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have nausea, vomiting, or no appetite for several days.
  • You are very tired and have no energy for several days.
  • You notice sores or white spots in your mouth.
  • You have constipation or diarrhea for longer than 1 day.
  • You bleed, bruise easily, or have small, red spots under your skin.
  • You feel depressed for several days.
  • Your heart is beating very fast.
  • You have frequent, painful urination.
  • You have a cough that is new, or that lasts longer than 1 day.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You are confused or have a severe headache.
  • You have neck pain or a stiff neck that will not go away.
  • You see swelling in your chest during or after you get your chemo.
  • You notice redness, drainage, or tenderness around your IV catheter site.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You see blood in your urine or bowel movement.
  • You feel dizzy or feel faint.
  • You are bleeding and cannot get the bleeding to stop.
  • You are weak in your arm or leg, or have trouble walking or seeing.
  • You have chest pain, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Intravenous Chemotherapy (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes