Chemotherapy as an outpatient

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Find out what happens when you receive chemotherapy as an outpatient, either in the hospital or taking medications at home.

Key points

  • Outpatients can either receive chemotherapy during a clinic appointment or they may take the medication at home.
  • IV medications are usually given at the hospital day care clinic by a nurse.
  • Some chemotherapy medications can be taken by mouth, and therefore can be taken at home.
  • It is important to take safety precautions to protect you and your family when taking medications at home.

When you are an outpatient, you do not stay in the hospital overnight. You might receive your chemotherapy during a clinic appointment in the hospital or you might take the chemotherapy medicines at home. Your health-care team will tell you what to expect.

Getting chemotherapy in the hospital

As an outpatient, you will receive most of the medications that are taken intravenously (through an IV) at the hospital day care clinic. A nurse will hook you up to a pump, run the medications and monitor you. Once you’ve received all the medications, any necessary fluids and monitoring, and it’s clear you’re not having a bad reaction to the chemotherapy, you’ll then get to go home. This is called day care. Because there’s always a potential for a reaction, many chemotherapies are given through day care.

Sometimes you will need to stay in the hospital overnight to get your chemo. This is most often because the doctors need to give you lots of fluids along with the chemotherapy, so it is inconvenient for you to go home each day. Ask your doctor for more details if they tell you that you need to sleep in the hospital.

Taking chemotherapy medications at home

Some of the medications you take can be taken orally (by mouth). It’s ok for you to take these at home.

If you need to get any supportive care medications through an injection (usually subcutaneous, or under the skin), a community care nurse may come to your home to give these to you. It’s also possible for you or your parents or guardians to learn how to give these medications to you. Your health-care team will talk to you and your family about this if it is a possibility.

If you or your parents have to give any medications at home, it’s very important that you take safety precautions to protect your family!

Last updated: September 3rd 2019