What to Expect During Your First Chemo Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 12, 2021

If you’re worried about upcoming chemo treatments, understanding what to expect may help. Everyone's situation is different, but here are some things you can expect if you're having IV chemotherapy

At your first chemo treatment, you’ll likely start with bloodwork. Show up a little early, and bring things to make yourself more comfortable during the wait, such as a sweater to keep warm and a book to read to pass the time.

When you're in the infusion room, your nurse will order the specific "chemotherapy cocktail" you'll be getting and any other medicines you may need from the pharmacy. If you don't have one already, you'll have an IV tube put in your arm. Your nurse may go ahead and start a saline solution in your IV. 

Some chemotherapy treatments take longer than others. Yours may be over in a few minutes or take hours to complete. Your nurse will check on you periodically during your treatment. Let them know if you're having any problems or experiencing any unusual symptoms. 

How you feel will depend on what medicines you're taking. If your doctor prescribed steroids, they may give you energy. If you're getting anti-anxiety medicine, it may make you sleepy. Everyone reacts differently to chemo medicine, so you won't know how you'll feel until after it's finished. This is why it's important to have someone with you who can drive you home.  

You may need to be observed for 30 minutes after your treatment to be sure you aren't having a bad reaction. Finally, your health care provider will talk to you about what you can expect in the next few days, and then you can go home. 

Show Sources

SOURCES: "What to Expect When Having Chemotherapy."

MD Anderson Cancer Center: "What to expect on your first day of chemotherapy." 

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