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Oral Chemotherapy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is oral chemotherapy?

Oral chemotherapy (chemo) is medicine used to shrink a tumor or kill cancer cells. Oral chemo is usually taken at home as a pill or liquid.

What will my chemo schedule be?

How often and how long you get chemo will depend on the type of cancer you have. It will also depend on the type of chemo you need, side effects, and how well the chemo works. You may be given more than one medicine at a time. You may take oral chemo daily, weekly, or once or twice a month. Chemo is often given in cycles over a period of several months or more. This means that you will get the medicine for a period of time, and then you will have a break from it. This allows your body to grow new, healthy cells.

What else do I need to know about oral chemo?

Chemo may damage your kidneys, liver, heart, or other organs. You may have an allergic reaction to chemo. This may become life-threatening. Your risk for infection and bleeding are increased during chemo treatment. You may have problems getting pregnant or getting your partner pregnant after you have chemo. You may need to receive chemo a different way, such as through a blood vessel instead of by mouth. You may need more than 1 cycle of chemo to treat your cancer.

What do I need to know about side effects of chemo?

Chemo can damage healthy cells in your digestive system, bone marrow, and mouth. Chemo may also attack your hair follicles. This attack or damage is what causes side effects. You may or may not have side effects from chemo. Your healthcare provider may give you medicine to prevent certain side effects. Side effects may depend on the type of chemo that you are given. Common side effects of oral chemo include the following:

Can I take my regular medicines or vitamins during chemo?

Show your healthcare provider a list of everything you currently take. Ask him or her if it is safe for you to take your regular medicines, vitamins, or supplements during chemo. Some may prevent chemo from working correctly.

How do I take my oral chemo?

Your healthcare provider will tell you when to take your oral chemo and how often. The following are guidelines for how to take your oral chemo:

What can I do to protect myself and others during chemo treatment?

Chemo may damage healthy skin or tissue. Do the following to protect yourself and others from chemo:

What other tests or treatments may I need?

What can I do to care for myself during chemo?

Where can I find more information and support?

It may be difficult for you and your family to go through cancer and cancer treatments. Join a support group or talk with others who have gone through treatment.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor or oncologist?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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