How is chemotherapy given?

Chemotherapy can be given:

  • Intravenously (IV)
  • By mouth in the form of a pill
  • With a shot (injection)
  • By intrathecal and intraventricular injection (meaning into the spinal fluid surrounding the spinal cord or brain).

Many types of chemotherapy can be given at home. Through instruction, you and your family members can learn how to administer chemotherapy in pill form or by injection with small syringes and needles similar to those that people with diabetes use to administer insulin. In some cases, a nurse will administer chemotherapy in an outpatient clinic. In other cases, it may be necessary to go to the hospital to receive treatment. Chemotherapy is typically given in cycles, which is a treatment followed by a period of rest. A cycle can last one or more days, but is usually one, two, three, or four weeks long. A course of chemotherapy is comprised of multiple cycles. Each course is different, but generally consists of four to six cycles. It may take a relatively short period of time to receive some chemotherapy drugs, while others take hours. It all depends on the treatment regimen that your doctor recommends. If your chemotherapy is given through an IV, your doctor may suggest an implanted venous access device (VAD) such as a HickmanĀ® catheter or Port-a-Cath. VADs are surgically placed in a large vein near the heart and can stay in place for long periods of time. By using a VAD, you will not have to have smaller catheters repeatedly placed in your arm veins.