What to Expect

What to Expect

The following information includes commonly asked questions as well as some general information about receiving your outpatient chemotherapy treatment.

Q. Can I take my usual medication at home before coming in for my chemotherapy?
A. Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, most patients can take their daily prescribed medications. Check with your doctor to make sure.

Q. Can I eat before coming to my appointment?
A. Yes, we encourage you to have your usual breakfast or lunch before coming in. If you get hungry during your treatment, we offer limited snacks and beverages for our patients. You may also bring food or drinks with you however; we cannot store any outside food in our refrigerators. You may bring a small cooler if needed. Please do not bring food with a strong odor such as fish or heavily seasoned aromatic foods.

Q. What should I wear to my appointment?
A. We recommend dressing in layers and wearing a button down top or v-neck, zip down or any top that is easily accessible to your chest. Many patients have a Port-A-Cath in their chest which needs to be easily accessible for both blood draws and IV’s. If the nurse will be placing an IV in your arm, please wear short sleeves or sleeves that can be rolled up. Since some patients get either cool or warm during treatment, dressing in layers allows you to stay more comfortable. We have warm blankets available if you get chilly. Please refrain from wearing strong perfumes, lotions or colognes as a courtesy to other patient’s sensitivities.

Q. How long does the treatment take?
A. Treatments vary in length. Some treatments can be less than thirty minutes while others can be several hours. Your doctor and nurse will be able to discuss your individual treatment plan with you. Please allow extra time for your first visit so your treatment can be explained thoroughly.

Q. Can my family & friends come with me?
A. Yes, family or friends may come with you and stay for the entire time or come and go if they wish. We do ask that you limit your guests to two at a time since space is limited in the treatment area. For safety issues, babies and children under the age of 12 are not allowed.

Q. Can I bring my computer, cell phone or iPod with me?
A. Yes, we have wireless access for computers and iPods and cell phones are permitted. When using cell phones we ask you to be mindful of your neighbors who may be resting or sleeping and to keep volumes low and conversations short. Visitors are encouraged to use their cell phones on the patio or in the hallway.

Q. Do I sit or lay in a bed for my treatment?
A. Be prepared to sit and recline for your treatment. There are very few beds available and we try to reserve them for our patients with special needs. Requests for beds are accommodated if available. Every treatment chair reclines and most have a personal television and DVD player. You may bring a DVD from home or borrow one of ours to watch while you are here. Additionally, if a patient cannot ambulate independently, is confused or needs help eating or drinking, for their safety we require that a family member or caregiver stay with the patient at all times.

Q. Can I drive home?
A, Some pre-chemotherapy medications can cause drowsiness preventing you from being able to drive yourself home safely. If you do not have a designated driver with you, medications that cause drowsiness will not be given to you.

Contact Information

Medical Oncology / First Hill - Swedish Cancer Institute
1221 Madison Street
Arnold Pavilion, Suite 200
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 1-(855)-XCANCER (1-855-9226237) or (206) 215-3600

Cancer Medication Dictionary

Search cancer medication information

Counseling & Support

Help is available for patients and familites to deal with emotions such as anxiety, stress and depression. Counseling and Support


Coping with Cancer

Exercise, playing or listening to music, reading, relaxation exercises, meditation — any
activity you enjoy — can help reduce stress and anxiety. Integrated Cancer Care