10 things to think about bringing to a chemotherapy treatment

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Once you have been diagnosed and depending on your situation, you may have to receive chemotherapy. So what should you bring to your appointments? Especially if you are about to receive treatment for the first time, it is not always apparent what you need to bring to a session.

To help you prepare and feel more at ease, here is our list of 10 things you might need. Of course, everyone is different! You may have different or more or fewer needs than these. Adapt according to your experience and situation, and don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare team for advice, as they are the ones who know you best.

1. A bottle of water to keep you well hydrated  

Dehydration can be a side effect of treatment, so it is very important to stay well hydrated, especially to flush out waste products and residues, keep up your energy, and fight nausea. Make sure you always have a bottle of water with you and drink small sips often, before, during, and after treatments.

2. Care products in travel size 

Your skin may become dry during chemotherapy treatments. Moisturizing skin-care products such as an unscented cream for the face and hands and a lubricating lip balm may help (ask your healthcare team for suitable brands).  

Chemo can also cause dry eyes, which can make it difficult to wear contact lenses, for example, or simply cause discomfort. If you do usually wear them, we recommend that you bring a pair of glasses and preservative-free artificial tears to relieve the irritation.  

If you have to spend the day away from home, a travel-sized care kit could come in handy during the day: consider, for example, soft cleansing wipes, deodorant, a soft-bristled toothbrush, and toothpaste…  

3. For your comfort 

Depending on the type of treatment you are receiving, you may also feel cold during your sessions, especially if you are using a scalp-cooling cap. In anticipation of this, bring a small, comfy blanket or a large scarf to cover yourself. 

Also, to ensure you are comfortable throughout the treatment, you may want to wear appropriate clothing and accessories on the day. A V-neck top, a polo or a baggy shirt would be advisable if you have a port-a-cath (catheter). A short-sleeved top is recommended if you have a peripherally inserted central catheter (picc-line). To maximize your overall comfort, here are some accessories you may want to consider: loose-fitting slacks (with an elastic waistband), non-slip slippers and comfortable socks, soft undergarments, and a suitable bra (without underwire), along with a turban-type or light cotton cap. 

4. What to eat 

Chemotherapy sessions can be long and you may feel hungry during the treatment. Remember to bring lunch and/or snacks with you. To help prevent nausea, it is best to avoid an empty stomach, by eating several meals or small snacks and opting for cold foods with no strong odors and easy to digest (e.g., crackers). In addition, even if the vending machines in hospitals do not always offer choices that might interest you, bring some loose change just in case. 

5. To relieve nausea 

It is well known that chemotherapy treatments can cause nausea. Your healthcare team may have already prescribed anti-nausea medication as a preventive measure: remember to take it with you!

Also, it is recommended to avoid wearing perfume, as strong odors can trigger nausea.

Some other techniques may also work for you, such as taking ginger (for example, in candy form)…

Unfortunately, sometimes these precautions are not enough: so take a sealable plastic bag just in case.

6. For relaxation  

Listening to soft music or guided meditation with headphones during your chemotherapy session may help you to relax.

Sometimes you may even nod off due to the exhaustion of treatment day. To help you rest well, bring along earplugs, a mask for your eyes, or even a small comfortable pillow. 

7. For entertainment 

As mentioned above, you may want to listen to music to distract and entertain yourself. Perhaps your friends and family members might be able to put together some playlists to take your mind off things and cheer you up! Have you tried podcasts or audiobooks? Remember to download them in advance.

Some reading, writing or drawing materials, knitting, a tablet or laptop to watch films or play games… it’s all good! If someone accompanies you or if you meet people there, maybe bring a game to pass the time together.

8. Those all-important device chargers 

You may need or want to contact your family or friends at any time. Don’t forget to bring your mobile phone charger with you and, if possible, a long cable or extension cord. Also, be sure to bring chargers for your other electronic devices (e.g., e-reader, wireless headphones, tablet, and so on).

9. Important documents and medical information 

Sometimes we have so much to think about that we can forget the essentials, such as important documents (hospital and Régie d’assurance maladie du Québec cards, oncology passport…).

Also, if you have lymphedema, it may be advisable to wear an alert bracelet on the affected side. Similarly, you may want to make sure you have some key information from your medical records at your fingertips, such as allergies to certain medications and a list of the drugs you are taking. Perhaps make some notes to take with you.

10. Protect yourself! 

Chemotherapy treatments can weaken your immune system. For this reason, some extra precautions may be required. The hospital usually provides a face mask when you enter, but it may be prudent to carry one with you so that you can change it when necessary. Hand sanitizer is also a must when soap and water are not available.

Some chemotherapy drugs can make you more sensitive to the sun. Even in winter, remember to protect yourself by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses outside.

If possible, ask a family member or friend to accompany you to drive you, support you, and/or help you remember any new information that may be given to you by members of the healthcare team. 

As previously mentioned, these 10 tips can be adapted to your situation and condition. They are only general recommendations and may not be relevant to you. Always ask your healthcare team for their opinion before your first session and remember, if you have any questions or concerns about breast cancer, call us at 1 1 855 561-PINK or contact us at soutien@rubanrose.org. 


Fiche de recommandation sur la chimiothérapie, CHU de Québec

Canadian Cancer Society, cancer.ca

Canadian Breast Cancer Network, cbcn.ca