How you prepare

By Mayo Clinic Staff

How you prepare for chemotherapy depends on which drugs you'll receive and how they'll be administered. Your doctor will give you specific instructions to prepare for your chemotherapy treatments. You may need to:

  • Have a device surgically inserted before intravenous chemotherapy. If you'll be receiving your chemotherapy intravenously — into a vein — your doctor may recommend a device, such as a catheter, port or pump. The catheter or other device is surgically implanted into a large vein, usually in your chest. Chemotherapy drugs can be given through the device.
  • Have your blood tested for certain genes. People with certain genes in their cells may process some chemotherapy drugs differently from people without these genes. This can cause additional side effects. For this reason, your doctor may recommend a blood test to look for genes that indicate certain drugs should be avoided or given in altered doses.
  • Undergo tests and procedures to make sure you're healthy enough for chemotherapy. Blood tests to check liver function and heart tests to check for heart health can determine whether you're healthy enough to begin chemotherapy. If there's a problem, your doctor may delay your treatment or select a chemotherapy drug and dosage that's safer for you.
  • See your dentist. Your doctor may recommend that a dentist check your teeth for signs of infection. Treating existing infections may reduce the risk of complications during chemotherapy treatment, since chemotherapy reduces your body's ability to fight infections.
  • Plan ahead for side effects. Ask your doctor what side effects you can expect during and after chemotherapy and make appropriate arrangements. For instance, if your chemotherapy treatment will cause infertility, you may wish to store sperm or fertilized eggs for future use. If your chemotherapy will cause hair loss, consider planning for a head covering.
  • Make arrangements for help at home and at work. Most chemotherapy treatments are given in an outpatient clinic, which means most people are able to continue working and doing their usual activities during chemotherapy. Your doctor can tell you in general how much the chemotherapy will affect your usual activities, but it's difficult to predict exactly how you'll feel. Plan ahead by asking for time off work or help around the house for the first few days after treatment. If you'll be in the hospital during chemotherapy treatment, make arrangements to take time off work and find a friend or family member to take care of your children, pets or home.
  • Prepare for your first treatment. Arrive for your first chemotherapy treatment well rested. Eat a light meal beforehand in case your chemotherapy medications cause nausea. Have a friend or family member drive you to your first treatment. Most people can drive themselves to and from chemotherapy sessions. But the first time you may find that the medications make you sleepy or cause other side effects that make driving difficult.
May. 05, 2011