Decorative image

Tablets, suppositories and patches

Some drugs can be taken as tablets, suppositories or patches. Find out about these different ways of having medicines. 

Tablets or capsules

Some cancer drugs come as tablets or capsules that you swallow.

You should only get a prescription for cancer drug tablets or capsules from your cancer specialist. You must take them at the right times, as directed by your doctor, specialist nurse or pharmacist. If you have problems swallowing, some medicines are available as a liquid that you drink. 

Storing medicines

It is important to keep your tablets or capsules in their original packaging. You need to store them in a safe place, away from children as they could be very harmful to children.

Store them as directed by your pharmacist, for example, many need to be kept at room temperature, and away from heat and direct sunlight. Some need to be kept in the fridge.

Disposing of medicines

It is important to take any unused tablets, capsules or patches back to the pharmacy so that they can be destroyed safely.

Don't flush them down the toilet or throw them away.

If you forget to take it

If you forget to take a tablet, don't take a double dose. Tell your doctor or specialist nurse and carry on with your usual dose schedule.


Suppositories are small, smooth and slightly pointed wax objects that contain drugs. The suppository goes into your back passage, where the wax melts and releases the drug. 

Drugs are absorbed very quickly through the lining of the back passage and it is a very efficient way of taking them. Unfortunately, for many people the thought of having anything put into their back passage is frightening and embarrassing. But it doesn't hurt and you can do it yourself if you don't like the idea of someone else doing it.

Your nurse can give you suppositories. Or they can give you a disposable glove and some lubricating gel and explain to you what you have to do.

Stick on skin patches

You can have some drugs as patches stuck on to the skin. HRT and nicotine patches are probably the best known. Painkillers and anti sickness medicines can be given in this way too.

You stick the patches onto your skin like a plaster. The drug is inside the patch and slowly passes through your skin into your body.

The patches last between 1 and 2 days. You throw away the old patch each time you change it. They are waterproof so that you can shower, bathe or go swimming while you are wearing them.

Tablets you dissolve on or under your tongue

If you find it hard to swallow tablets, you might be able to have your drugs as a tablet that dissolves. You can put some drugs on your tongue and when they dissolve you swallow them. You can have anti sickness medicines in this way. 

There are other drugs that you put under your tongue. You just leave the drug there to dissolve. This type of tablet is called sub lingual, which means under the tongue. You can have some painkillers or anti sickness in this way.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.