Tablets, suppositories and patches

There are different ways of having medicines.

Tablets or capsules

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

Only your cancer specialist should prescribe cancer drug tablets or capsules. 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.

Tablets you dissolve on or under your tongue

Some drugs are available as a tablet that dissolves. You can put them on your tongue, and when they dissolve, you swallow them. This can be helpful if you have swallowing problems. You can have some anti sickness medicines in this way.

There are other drugs that you put under your tongue. You 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.


You can have some medicines as liquids if you can’t swallow tablets or capsules. Liquids can be clear or thick (viscous). Always check the label on the bottle for how to store liquid medicines safely once you have opened it.

Lozenges or pastilles

Some medicines come in a solid shape like a hard boiled sweet or lollipop. These can be, for example, certain painkillers. A lozenge or pastille has a single dose of the medication you need.

You have to suck on the lozenge as told by your nurse or doctor and until it has completely dissolved. This will give you the full dose of the medication. Do not chew the lozenge.


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.

The lining of the back passage absorbs drugs quickly. It is a very efficient way of taking them. Unfortunately, for many people, taking a drug this way 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 the best known examples. You can also have some painkillers and anti sickness medicines this way.

You stick the patches onto your skin like a plaster. Do not stick it to irritated or hairy skin areas. The drug is inside the patch and slowly passes through your skin into your body.

The patches can last for a few days depending on the type of medicine it contains. 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.


Breaking or crushing tablets

Do not break or crush tablets or open capsules if you have trouble swallowing. Speak to your pharmacist first.

Storing medicines

It is important to keep your medicines 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 your medicines as directed by a pharmacist. You may need to keep them at room temperature, and away from heat and direct sunlight. Some you may need to keep in the fridge.

Disposing of medicines

It is important to take any unused medicines back to the pharmacy. They can destroy them safely. Don't flush them down the toilet or throw them away.

If you forget to take it

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

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