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How is cancer drug treatment provided?

Cancer drugs may be given to patients as a tablet, capsule or liquid which is swallowed or by an injection. 

Drugs provided as tablets may often be taken by the patient in their own homes or sometimes in the hospital.  It is important that patients follow the instructions given to them on how to take the tablets and how often.

Patients who need to receive cancer drugs by injection attend a hospital for their treatment but usually won’t need to stay overnight in the hospital.  Treatment is usually provided in a special area of the hospital and patients can usually sit in an armchair or a couch when receiving their treatment.  The amount of time required for treatments will depend on the type of drug and could last from under an hour to several hours.  Specially-trained oncology nurses are on duty while patients are in the hospital receiving their treatment.

Drugs which are provided by injection into a vein are known as “intravenous” or “IV”.  These drugs are usually administered through a “drip” or through an IV syringe or “IV push”.  In some cases, a port may be inserted and may remain in place for some time to allow for easy access to a vein.   

As well as injections into a vein, cancer drugs may be injected in other ways, including under the skin (sub-cutaneous), into a muscle (intra-muscular) or into an artery (intra-arterial).  In some cases, topical treatments (applied directly to the skin) may be used for the treatment of skin cancer.

Patients may also receive other types of medication to help ease the side effects of the cancer drugs they receive.  These may include medicine to help with nausea, diarrhoea, chills etc.