Chemotherapy is a common treatment for cancer patients, and may often require an extra hand or two to administer the medication safely. Here are some tips to help safely administer and dispose of chemotherapy treatment materials:

What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy, in short, is a drug treatment that works to kill fast-growing cells quickly and efficiently. To do so, someone undergoing chemotherapy is treated via pill, injection, or other methods with powerful chemicals. While these chemicals may vary in terms of intensity or side effects, the goal of chemotherapy is to eliminate abnormal cell growth most commonly associated with cancer.

Your Chemotherapy Team

For someone undergoing chemotherapy, patients will be entrusted to a specialized team to help make sure the treatment process runs smoothly. The team itself is comprised of the patient’s primary care physician, an oncology physician who specializes in chemotherapy treatment, and an oncology nurse to assist the physician. Patients will meet with their oncology professionals during chemotherapy treatment and appointments, which typically occur in cycles based on the patient’s needs.

It is also common for nutritionists, physical therapists, social workers, and pharmacists to be a part of someone’s personal oncology team as well since chemotherapy comes with many side effects that may require an expert’s insight.

Preparing the Medication

Since the chemicals used in chemotherapy are incredibly strong, they can be harmful and downright deadly to other individuals that come in contact with them. For caretakers who assist with chemotherapy treatment at home, it is important to follow safety guidelines to keep both the patient and others around them safe.

When preparing for treatment, oncologists will often wear protective suits, gloves, and face shields to prevent contamination. Chemotherapy treatments at home often come as oral medications, and deserve the same kind of treatment. All forms of chemotherapy drugs must stay in their respective containers or capsules and stored away from any food items. If the powder from a pill or liquid from vial spills, immediately clean the surface with soap and water. 

Disposal

Just like preparation, disposing of used chemotherapy products needs to be taken seriously and safely. When disposing of pill bottles and medications, seal them in a puncture-proof container and label it appropriately. Dispose of the items at a specified drug waste location, like a pharmacy.

It takes a few days for the chemicals used in chemotherapy to be fully broken down, and a patient’s bodily fluids will often contain traces of these chemicals. To avoid cross-contamination, it is best to clean any surface the patient touches with soap and water. The best way to avoid contamination, however, is to let the patient use a separate toilet at home if possible. That way, family members will be less likely to come in contact with wastewater while using the toilet. To keep pets out of the bathroom, close the door or toilet lid as well.

Remember, you are not alone in your experiences. If you have any questions regarding the chemotherapy process, speak with your primary care physician or a loved one’s oncology team.

 

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