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Chemotherapy tablets and capsules

You may have chemotherapy tablets or capsules to take at home. It's important to follow the instructions for taking and storing your chemotherapy tablets. 

Taking chemotherapy tablets or capsules

This may be all the treatment you need or you may have drugs into a vein (intravenous drugs) as well.

The doctors or nurses will tell you:

  • when to take the tablets or capsules
  • how often to take them
  • whether or not to take them with food
  • how long before or after food you should take them
  • whether there is anything you shouldn't eat while you are taking them – for example, you shouldn't eat grapefruit with some drugs

You should touch the tablets as little as possible and wash your hands after touching them. Anyone helping you to take them should wear gloves.

If you forget to take your tablets, don't take a double dose the next day. And don't take them for longer than the planned time. Get advice from your doctor on what to do.

If you can't take your tablets as prescribed for any reason, or if you’re sick soon after taking your tablets, contact your cancer specialist or chemotherapy nurse for advice.

Chemotherapy is excreted by the body in urine and stool (poo), so flush the toilet each time you use it. 

Storing your tablets

Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how to store your tablets or capsules safely at home. Some drugs need to be kept in the fridge and some don't.

Wherever you keep your drugs, make sure that children or pets can't get at them. Ideally, they should be kept in a locked cupboard if there are children around.

If you have any unused tablets, take them back to the pharmacy.

Last reviewed: 
06 Jan 2015
  • The Chemotherapy Source Book (4th edition)
    Michael C Perry
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2008

  • Cancer: Principles and practice of oncology (9th edition)
    De Vita VT, Hellman S and Rosenberg SA
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011.

  • Handbook of Cancer Chemotherapy (8th edition)
    Skeel, R.T. and Khleif, S.N.
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011

  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (8th edition)
    Dougherty, L. and Lister, S. 
    Wiley-Black, 2011

  • Chemotherapy Services in England: Ensuring quality and safety
    National Chemotherapy  Advisory Group (NCAG), 2009

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