How is chemotherapy given?

Your chemotherapy will be given in an outpatient clinics or hospital setting. You may take some types of chemotherapy at home. You may receive chemotherapy through a variety of methods or devices. These include:

  • Central venous catheters are thin, soft, hollow tubes, sometimes called long-lines. One end of the catheter sits in a large vein, usually in your chest. The other end remains outside your body, either outside your chest or arm. Your care team can use a catheter to give systemic chemotherapy, medications, fluids, and blood transfusions. Your care team can also take blood through the catheter. Examples include peripherally inserted central catheters (Groshong PICC, Per-Q-Cath), midline catheters (Groshong Midline, Per-Q-Cath Midline), and tunneled central venous catheters (Broviac, Groshong, Hickman, Neostar). Your doctor places a catheter during a short outpatient surgical procedure. It remains in place until all chemotherapy sessions are completed. Your doctor will remove your catheter during another short outpatient procedure. 
  • Implantable venous access ports are small disks made of plastic or metal. A port sits just under the skin of your chest. A catheter attached to the port runs into a large vein, usually in your chest. Your care team can use a port to give systemic chemotherapy, medications, fluids, and blood transfusions. Your care team can also take blood through a port. Examples include BardPort, Infusaport, Medi-Port, PassPort, and Port-A-Cath. Your doctor places a port during an outpatient surgical procedure. It remains in place until all chemotherapy sessions are completed. Your doctor will remove your port during another short outpatient procedure. 
  • Injections are shots that are a form of systemic chemotherapy. Your nurse will give you the shot either in a muscle (intramuscularly) or under your skin (subcutaneously).
  • Intra-arterial chemotherapy is injected into an artery that directly feeds your tumor. It is limited to certain areas of your body. It is a regional form of chemotherapy.
  • Intracavitary chemotherapy is put right into your affected body cavity. Examples include your bladder and abdominal cavity (peritoneum). It is a form of regional chemotherapy.
  • Intralesional chemotherapy is injected directly into a tumor or cancerous growth. Your doctor may use this method if he or she can safely reach a tumor with a needle. It is a form of regional chemotherapy.
  • Oral medications are pills, tablets, capsules or liquids that you take by mouth. They are a form of systemic chemotherapy.
  • Peripheral infusions slowly drip chemotherapy medication through an intravenous (IV) line. This is a form of systemic chemotherapy. Your nurse will usually put your IV line in your hand or arm. Your nurse will put an IV line in before each session and remove it afterward. Tell a member of your care team right away if you feel any pain or burning during an IV chemotherapy infusion.
  • Topical medications are creams and lotions that doctors generally prescribe to treat skin cancer. They are a form of regional chemotherapy.

Your doctor will advise you on which method of chemotherapy is best for you based on your diagnosis, age, medical history, general health, and possibly your personal preference. Learn about the different types of chemotherapy and ask why your doctor will use a particular type for you. 

Will I feel pain with a chemotherapy procedure?

Your comfort and relaxation is important to you and your care team. You may feel a brief pinch or prick during IV or needle insertion for certain types of chemotherapy. These include having chemotherapy by infusion, injection, or through an IV access port under the skin. 

Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax. Tell your care team if any discomfort does not pass quickly or if you have pain or burning during chemotherapy. 

Types of anesthesia that may be used

You will have regional anesthesia (a nerve block) to numb the pain during placement of a central venous catheter or port. A nerve block numbs the area where your doctor inserts the device. You may have sedation to keep you relaxed and comfortable.&