Chemotherapy tablets and capsules

You may have chemotherapy tablets or capsules to take at home. This is also called oral chemotherapy.

It is important to follow the instructions for taking and storing your chemotherapy tablets. 

Taking chemotherapy tablets or capsules

This may be all the treatment you need or you may have drugs into a vein (intravenous drugs) as well.

The doctors or nurses will tell you:

  • when to take the tablets or capsules

  • how often to take them

  • whether or not to take them with food

  • how long before or after food you should take them

  • if there is any food or drink you shouldn't have while you are taking them – for example, you shouldn't eat grapefruit with some drugs

  • if there are other medicines you shouldn't take at the same time

You should touch the tablets as little as possible and wash your hands after touching them. Anyone helping you to take them should wear gloves. Chemotherapy tablets shouldn't be touched by anyone who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

Chemotherapy is excreted by the body in pee and poo, so flush the toilet each time you use it. 

You should swallow the tablets whole. Don’t chew them. Never crush tablets or open capsules unless your doctor or pharmacist tells you to.

Missed tablets or capsules

Contact your cancer specialist or chemotherapy nurse for advice if you miss your tablets for any reason. Or if you are sick soon after taking them.

You should not:

  • take a double dose next time
  • take them longer than the planned time

Storing your tablets

Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how to store your tablets or capsules safely at home. Some drugs need to be kept in the fridge and some don't.

Wherever you keep your drugs, make sure that children or pets can't get at them. It's best to keep them out of reach or in a locked cupboard if there are children around.

If you have any unused tablets, take them back to the pharmacy. Do not put them in the bin or down the toilet.

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg 
    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • Handbook of Cancer Chemotherapy (8th edition)
    RT Skeel and SN Khleif
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2011

  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical and Cancer Nursing Procedures (10th edition, online)
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton
    Wiley Blackwell, 2020

  • Cytotoxic Drugs
    British National Formulary
    Accessed November 2023

Last reviewed: 
28 Nov 2023
Next review due: 
27 Nov 2026

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