Skip to Content

Peripheral Intravenous Chemotherapy


What is peripheral intravenous chemotherapy?

Peripheral intravenous (IV) chemotherapy (chemo) is a treatment used to shrink a tumor or kill cancer cells. An IV catheter is placed in your hand or arm. Your caregiver may need to insert a new IV before each dose of chemo. The IV may stay in your vein for a few days.

How long will I receive chemotherapy?

The type of cancer you have will determine how long you will need to receive chemo. You may be given more than one medicine at a time. You may need chemo for a few hours every day, every week, or once to 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.

Where will I go to get chemotherapy?

You may get chemo in a hospital, a clinic, or at home. The type of chemo you need will determine where you are treated. The first time you get chemo, you will most likely be in a hospital. This way your caregivers can watch you closely to see how you feel during and after treatment. Your caregivers can then decide if any changes in the chemo need to be made. If you get your chemo at home, a caregiver trained in chemo will give it to you.

What tests or treatments may I need during chemotherapy?

Tests will help your caregiver see how the chemo is working. It will also help him find out how your body is handling the chemo. Your caregiver may order any of the following:

  • Blood tests: Your caregiver will use these tests to check your blood cell count. You may need regular blood tests to make sure organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are working correctly. Blood tests may also show if you have an infection in your blood.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers may use these pictures to look for a tumor.
  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your body. It may show the size and location of the tumor. You may be given dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • Blood transfusion: Chemo may cause your bone marrow to stop producing blood cells. You may need a blood transfusion to help replace blood cells your body cannot make.

What are the risks of peripheral IV chemo?

The medicine may leak from your IV. This could permanently harm your skin, vein, or the inside of your body. If this happens, you may need to get chemo through a larger vein in your body. Chemo may increase your risk of an infection. Chemo may not kill all the cancer cells. With or without treatment, the cancer may spread and be life-threatening.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver 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 more than 1 day.
  • You have a fever, swelling, or pain.
  • You are depressed.
  • You feel like your heart is beating very fast.
  • You have frequent, painful urination.
  • You have a cough that is new or that does not go away.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have chest pain, shortness of breath, or trouble breathing.
  • You feel confused, have frequent headaches, or trouble seeing.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful.
  • You see blood in your urine or bowel movements.
  • You see swelling in the arm where you are received the chemo.
  • You cannot move the arm where you received the chemo.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.

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 caregivers 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.

Further information

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