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Alcohol and chemotherapy

Can I drink alcohol while I am having chemotherapy?

Whether you drink alcohol during your course of chemotherapy will partly depend on the particular drugs you are having. It is generally fine to drink small amounts of alcohol during treatment, but alcohol can interfere with the way some chemotherapy drugs work. Your doctors and nurses giving the treatment will be able to give you specific advice about whether drinking alcohol is safe with your chemotherapy drugs.

With some drugs it is very important not to drink alcohol as they interact. Procarbazine and lomustine are two of these drugs. If you are having either of these, you must talk to your doctor or chemotherapy nurse about what you shouldn't eat and drink.

Some chemotherapy drugs can make you feel sick or you may lose your appetite. If you are able to drink, then small amounts of alcohol may help to boost your appetite. But excessive drinking would not be a good idea, whatever type of chemotherapy you are on.

Some chemotherapy drugs cause a change in taste. So food and drink may not taste as they did before. This will go back to normal once the treatment has finished, but it can mean that people who used to enjoy alcohol do not enjoy having a drink while on treatment anyway. Some people also develop a sore mouth while having chemotherapy and you may find that alcohol stings, particularly spirits.

Generally, having the odd glass of wine or beer is not going to affect you while on chemotherapy. Just check with your doctor first to make sure it is all right. If you were used to drinking a lot and find it very difficult to cut down, you may want to discuss this with your doctor.

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Updated: 17 January 2015