Skip Navigation The Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center

Preparing for Chemotherapy

If your doctor recommends chemotherapy, here is what you can expect:

1. Standard Blood Tests
Your doctor will order blood tests before chemotherapy begins in order to establish a baseline record and to ensure your body is ready for chemotherapy. Blood tests will also be ordered during the course of your treatment to monitor your body’s response to the chemo.

2. Imaging
Your doctor may recommend radiologic tests such as X-rays, MRI, CT, PET and ultrasound.

3. Medical and Dental Exams
You may be required to get a dental or podiatric exam to check for infections that could lead to complications during your treatment. Chemotherapy can affect heart health, so you may also be required to get an echocardiogram or other test.

4. Review of Medications and Foods
Your doctor will ask you to list any prescription drugs, non-prescription medicines, supplements, vitamins or herbs you take, and will tell you what foods and medicines to avoid in order to maximize the effectiveness of your chemotherapy treatment.

5. Written Permission
You will be asked to sign an informed consent form giving permission for chemotherapy. Your doctor will review the risks and benefits of your treatment before you sign.

Most chemotherapy treatments are given in repeating cycles. The length of a cycle, the number of treatments per cycle, the number of cycles and the total length of treatment depends on your type and stage of cancer and other factors.

Before Treatment

Being prepared for the disruptions and changes to your daily life that side effects can cause will make it easier to deal with them.

  • Make a list of your regular tasks and duties and assign them to members of your family or support team when possible.
  • Prepare meals in advance and freeze them, or arrange to have friends bring meals on a set schedule while you are undergoing treatment.
  • Eat healthy and nutrition food in the weeks leading up to your chemotherapy treatment to boost your strength.
  • Chemotherapy can make you especially susceptible to germs. Arrange to have your living area cleaned regularly.
  • Get plenty of rest and exercise.
  • Use birth control if there is a chance you could become pregnant during chemotherapy.
  • Consider joining a support group to work through your feelings and receive support from people who know what you’re going through.
  • Visualize health!

During Treatment

Once chemotherapy begins:

  • Restrict activity and avoid exertion if you feel tired.
  • Wash your hands often and ask sick friends to kindly refrain from visiting when they may be contagious.
  • To ward off mouth sores, rinse your mouth frequently with a solution of ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ⅛ teaspoon salt and 1 cup warm water.
  • Rest and accept help from people who offer.