Breast Cancer: How to Prepare for Chemotherapy

Health Monitor Staff
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Before your course of treatment begins

  • Have your blood tested. To make sure you’re a good candidate for chemo, a complete blood count (CBC) will be ordered. The CBC measures levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets in your blood. All future blood tests will be compared to your first CBC. Chemotherapy can lower your blood counts, so it’s important to track them.

  • Attend a chemo class. Many cancer centers offer a pre-chemo education program to prepare you.

  • Visit the facility. Just being able to see where you’ll be getting your chemotherapy can significantly reduce anxiety. Ask for a tour of the clinic, hospital, outpatient facility or other place you’ll be going and meet the nurses who will be taking care of you.

  • Get regular care and screenings. Take care of dental work and get any exams you’re due for, such as a Pap or colonoscopy.

  • Ask if having a port implanted is right for you. Needles are inserted more easily through a port than directly through the skin.

  • Stock up on essentials.You’ll need face and body lotion, lip balm and nasal gel to combat dryness and products that fight dry mouth.

  • Recruit a chemo buddy. Although most people can drive themselves to and from treatment, the first visit typically involves learning new information and it’s always good to have a second set of ears.

  • Get your prescriptions filled. In case you need antinausea medications afterward, have your prescriptions filled at the pharmacy before your treatment. Get any other medications suggested (such as over-the-counter medications), so you’ll have them when needed.

Before your course of treatment begins

  • Drink water. The infusion nurse will be able to find your veins more easily if there’s fluid in your system. Drink about 10 8-oz. glasses of water the day before.

  • Speed through check-in: Make sure you have your insurance and hospital registration cards, names and addresses of your referring physician and primary care doctor, list of your medications and your pharmacy phone number.

  • Pack a goody bag to curb thirst, hunger and side effects: Bag lunch and/or snacks, water or a fizzy drink to curb nausea, lip balm for dry lips and hand cream, gum, breath mints or hard candy to freshen your mouth.

  • Think cozy and comfy: Infusion suites are often cold, so make sure to pack a shawl or sweater, blanket, socks and cuddly clothing.

  • Make time fly: Bring a book or magazines, portable CD/DVD player, MP3 player (charged), handheld game, knitting, sewing or other craft project, stationery, laptop, headphones, journal or diary.

  • Ask about numbing cream. If you have a port, ask your infusion nurse to recommend a cream that will make infusions more comfortable. Find out when and where to apply it.

For more info on undergoing chemotherapy, visit

May 2013