Oral therapies (treatment by mouth)

Some chemotherapy drugs and biological therapies are taken my mouth as a tablet or capsule. These are known as oral therapies. Examples include capecitabine (Xeloda®) and sunitinib (Sutent®) .
After you take your therapy by mouth, it is absorbed into your blood stream and carried around your body just like intravenous chemotherapy. This is just as effective as other types of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy drugs are usually prepared in a special area of the hospital pharmacy. All the drugs are carefully checked by the pharmacy staff to make sure they are the right ones for you. 
The following healthcare professionals can help you when you are taking your oral therapies: 

Before you start oral therapies at home

  • Your oncologist or a member of your medical team will prescribe the medication
  • The hospital pharmacist will dispense the medication to you 
  • You and a family member or carer will attend an oral therapy information session. You will also be provided with written information.
  • You may find a patient diary useful to help you keep track of your medication and any possible side-effects. It will also help you to remember what to tell the doctor or nurse when you are in the hospital. Our Journey Journal can help you to do this.

Important information

Always take the prescribed dose. Taking less or more of the prescribed dose could be dangerous and will affect how well your treatment works.
You should call the hospital immediately if you: 
  • miss a dose
  • are unable to take a prescribed dose
  • are sick after taking your medication 
  • have side-effects. Find out more information on side-effects.
If you are taking any other medications, it is important to tell your medical team.  
The side-effects of chemotherapy affect people differently. If you do experience side-effects, it is important to inform your medical team or nurse as soon as possible. If you delay, this may result in you becoming unwell. 

When you are at home

  • Chemotherapy tablets, capsules or injections may need to be stored in a particular way, such as in the fridge. Always follow the instructions of your pharmacist. 
  • Other people in your household should avoid direct contact with your chemotherapy drugs and avoid picking them up with bare hands.
  • All drugs must be stored out of the reach of children as they could cause serious harm if taken by accident. 
  • If you feel unwell at any time, phone the hospital or clinic immediately for advice. 

Call our Cancer Nurseline

Freephone 1800 200 700 to talk to a specialist cancer nurse
It's open Monday-Thursday from 9am to 7pm and Friday from 9am to 5pm
Date Last Revised: 
Friday, July 31, 2015