Discharge Instructions for Chemotherapy

Your healthcare provider prescribed a type of medicine therapy for you called chemotherapy. It's also known as chemo. Chemo is used for many different types of illnesses, including cancer. There are many types of chemo. This sheet gives some general information on how you can take care of yourself after your chemo. Talk with your healthcare provider about other details based on your own treatment plan.

Mouth care

You may get mouth sores, even if you follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions. Many people get mouth sores as a side effect of chemo. Here’s what you can do to help prevent mouth sores:

  • Keep your mouth clean. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush after every meal.

  • Ask if you should use a toothpaste with fluoride. Or you may be told to brush your teeth with a mixture of 1 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water. 

  • Use an oral swab or special soft toothbrush if your gums bleed during brushing.

  • Don't use dental floss if it causes your gums to bleed.

  • Use any mouthwash given to you as directed.

  • If you can’t tolerate regular methods, use salt and baking soda to clean your mouth. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water. Swish and spit.

  • If you wear dentures, you may be told to wear them only when you eat. Ask your healthcare provider. Clean your dentures twice a day. Soak them in antimicrobial solution when you aren't wearing them. Rinse your mouth after each meal. 

  • Check your mouth and tongue for white patches. This may be a sign of a type of yeast infection called thrush. This is a common side effect of chemo. Tell your healthcare provider if you get these patches. He or she can prescribe medicine to treat them.

Other self-care

Here's what else you can do:

  • Try to exercise. Exercise keeps you strong and keeps your heart and lungs active. Walking and yoga are good types of exercise.

  • Keep clean. During chemo, your body can’t fight infection very well. Take short baths or showers. Wash your hands before you eat and after going to the bathroom.

  • Avoid people who are sick with an illness you could catch. This includes people with colds, flu, measles, or chicken pox. This also includes people who have recently had a vaccine for any illness.

  • Let your healthcare provider know if your throat is sore. You may have an infection that needs treatment.

  • Be gentle to your skin. Use moisturizing soap. Chemo can make your skin dry. Apply lotion several times a day to help relieve dry skin. Don’t take very hot or very cold showers or baths.

  • Don’t be surprised if your chemo causes slight burns to your skin. This can happen most often on the hands and feet. Some medicines used in high doses cause this. Ask for a special cream to help relieve the burn and protect your skin.

Many people on chemo feel sick and find it hard to eat during treatment. Try these tips:

  • Eat small meals several times a day to keep your strength up.

  • Choose bland foods with little taste or smell if you are reacting strongly to food.

  • Be sure to cook all food fully. This kills bacteria and helps you prevent illness.

  • Eat foods that are soft. Soft foods are less likely to cause stomach irritation.

  • Try to eat a variety of foods for a well-balanced diet. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat foods with fiber unless your healthcare provider says not to. Fiber can help to prevent constipation.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Unexplained bleeding

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Ongoing fatigue

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, trouble breathing, or bad cough

  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat, or chest pain

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness

  • Constant feeling of being cold

  • Hives or a cut or rash that swells, turns red, feels hot or painful, or begins to ooze

  • Burning when you urinate

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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