Chemo is a drug that is used to kill or weaken cancer cells. The drug can be taken at home.

Chemotherapy is a treatment that’s designed to destroy cancer cells, no matter where they are in your body.

“When you think about the effects of cancer, you may imagine needles, IV administration, and long hours in a doctor’s office. Chemo drugs can be either a liquid or a tablets and can be swallowed.”

Most people with cancer need more than one type of treatment. Other treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. You can take chemotherapy before, during, or after Other treatments are available..

How much you need depends on a number of factors.

“You follow the instructions from a doctor or healthcare professional for oral chemotherapy drugs. If you take pills too close together, miss one or don’t take the correct dose, it could be that the medication doesn’t work.”

Make sure the instructions from the doctor are clear and that you have received instructions to take the medication in a proper way.

Storage requirements for oral chemotherapy pills may be different. It is important to keep your medication at the correct temperature.

Make sure to keep your medication out of the water. The bathroom may be damp and cause the medication to break down. Keep oral chemotherapy pills away from children.

You and the doctor must consider many factors when choosing between oral and traditional cancer treatment. This is how they compare with each other.

Oral chemotherapy Traditional chemotherapy
Convenience You can take it at home in a matter of seconds, so there’s less disruption to your life. It requires a visit to a doctor’s office or clinic for a treatment that may take hours. Over time, this can become burdensome.
Comfort It’s less invasive and causes little to no physical discomfort when you take it. Getting IV medications can be uncomfortable or even painful. It can take several hours and may increase your anxiety levels.
Compliance You have to keep track of dosing and administration, making sure to take it exactly as directed, usually several times per day. Your healthcare team takes care of dosing and administration.
Cost Your health insurance plan might list it as a pharmacy benefit instead of a medical benefit. This could increase out-of-pocket costs. Major medical benefits usually cover it.

It is not always an option to use an oral version of the drug.

The biggest disadvantage of oral chemotherapy is that it is not administered in a hospital or a healthcare professional setting. Users may be at risk of forgetting to take their medication or doing so wrong.

According to an older 2012 study, the longer a person’s oral chemotherapy treatment lasts, the more likely a person is to eventually discontinue use of the drug without the guidance of their doctor. This can lead to treatment being less effective, worsening side effects, and high dosages if pills are taken closely together.

One other disadvantage of oral chemotherapy is that the pills can be extremely dangerous. According to the American Cancer Society, oral chemotherapy pills may need to be handled in a very specific way, sometimes even administered with gloves on.

Some of your healthy cells can be damaged by the effects of cancer therapy. The side effects of oral treatments are similar to those of traditional ones. They can be different depending on the drug.

The most common side effects of oral chemotherapy are:

  • “It’s difficult to sleep.”
  • fatigue
  • The general weakness.
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • A loss of appetite.
  • There is a lot of diarrhea.
  • weight loss
  • hair loss
  • The finger and toe changes.
  • There are mouth sores.
  • The gums are bleeding.
  • Skin changes.
  • low blood counts are a problem.
  • Nerve damage or neuropathy is a condition.
  • There was no menstrual period.
  • fertility problems
  • A compromised immune system can make you vulnerable to infections and illness.

Less common but serious side effects include a weakened heart.

Some of the drugs used in the treatment of cancer are not available in oral form. There are a lot of oral cancer therapy drugs that treat a variety of cancers.

Drug (generic name) Cancer type
altretamine ovarian
capecitabine breast, colorectal
cyclophosphamide breast, ovarian, lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma
etoposide small-cell lung cancer

Doctors often prescribe drugs together.

You will have the chance to talk to a doctor before starting the treatment. This is a good time to ask questions.

Keep in mind

  • “You are at a higher risk of illness and infections because your immune system isn’t at its best. People with diseases should be avoided.”
  • “Your body is working hard and you need a good night’s sleep. A few rest periods during the day can help if you are tired.”
  • “Don’t stop eating even though you may be hungry. A healthy diet will help you heal and keep your strength.”
  • Getting some exercise each day will help you feel better.
  • It is okay to ask for help with chores.

What to ask a doctor before starting oral chemotherapy

Some questions you may want to ask a doctor.

  • What is the expected effect of each drug?
  • How should I take this medication? You may be given a diary to keep track of times and doses.
  • Can the pills be crushed? Do they need to eat with a meal?
  • Is there any food I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • What happens if I throw up?
  • How should I store the drug?
  • What should I do if I have side effects from this drug? What are the warning signs of a serious problem?
  • How often should I check in? When will I need a blood test?
  • How long will it take?
  • How will we know it is working?

What to know about leftover oral chemotherapy drugs

You might be left with unused drugs if your treatment plan changes. You should never flush these drugs down the toilet or sink. You should not put them in the trash.

Check with your doctor or pharmacy. They will take them off your hands or let you know how to dispose of them.

The effectiveness of oral chemotherapy is similar to that of traditional chemotherapy.

It is important to follow directions and not skip doses in oral therapy. It takes commitment to take your medication in the right amount. Communication is also important between you and your doctor.

How effective your therapy is depends on a number of factors.

  • The type of cancer.
  • How far the disease has spread?
  • Other treatments are available.
  • Your age.
  • Your overall health.
  • How well do you respond to therapy?
  • The severity of your side effects.

Talk to your doctor about what you can expect from the treatment.

Most practices help you figure out how to pay for your treatment.

If you have health insurance, you can be sure that traditional chemotherapy is covered. If you have a pharmacy policy, oral chemotherapy may be covered by it.

“You should understand your coverage so you don’t get caught up in bills. These services can help you if you have high out-of-pocket costs.”

Many substances can interact with your medication. This includes:

  • Other prescription drugs.
  • herbal supplements.
  • Certain foods.
  • Alcohol.

Some can affect the potency of your medication and others can cause dangerous side effects. With many medications, an occasional Alcohol.ic beverage is harmless, but you shouldn’t assume it is.

The instructions and warnings that come with your prescription can be read differently. It is a good idea to double check with a doctor or pharmacist. You should mention any other drugs you take with the treatment.

These drugs are very powerful and can affect you in many ways, even though you are taking a quick pill instead of an IV.

You can share experiences and tips with others by joining an online or in-person cancer support group. Ask a doctor or visit the American Cancer Society for more information.