Safe Handling of Chemotherapy Pills

If you've been prescribed oral chemotherapy pills by your oncologist, it's important to make sure you stay safe while handling and storing them.

Here are some general precautions to keep in mind when handling and storing at-home chemo medications. 

What are the Basics?

One of the most important things you will want to confirm with your oncologist is when and how to take your chemotherapy pills. It is important to take these drugs exactly as prescribed by your oncologist to ensure the necessary level of medicine is in your body from day to day. If you do miss a dose, contact your medical team for directions on how to proceed.  

Proper storage of these drugs is also important to ensure the medicine is not damaged in any way. You will want to read the manufacturer’s instructions on how and where to store the medicine. Reach out to your oncology team for any additional questions or instructions. 

Safe Medication Handling: Do's and Don't's



Reach out to your oncologist if you are having difficulty swallowing your pills. 

Don’t cut, break, dissolve, or open chemo capsules/pills.

Keep your medication in a secure and visible area, per manufacturer’s instructions.

Don’t keep them in an open area that is easily accessible to children, family members, or pets.

Set a reminder or use a pill box to help you take your pills on time.

Don’t double up on your pills if you miss taking them on time. Discuss what to do with your oncologist. 

Store your pills in a refrigerator or away from light if instructed by the medication insert.

Pro tip: Set aside a dedicated area in your refrigerator. Clearly label the medication in a bag. 

Don’t store the medication next to your food or drinks.

Wash your hands before and after handling your pills.

Don’t have family members assist you with medication preparation if they are not wearing gloves. 

Wash any clothing or linens that become soiled with bodily fluids separate from other laundry while on chemotherapy pills. 

Don’t wash soiled clothes with your regular laundry. 

Contact your oncologist or pharmacy about where to dispose of any leftover chemotherapy pills.

Don’t flush the medication down the toilet or discard it in the garbage.

Safe handling of your chemotherapy medications is not only important for you but also for the wellbeing of those around you. Improperly disposing of oral chemotherapy and other medications can adversely affect the environment and water system.

While disposal should occur through an appropriate service/location (pharmacy, hospital, local cancer clinic, etc.), you can also refer to OncoLink's Safe Medication Disposal Guide for tips for home disposal as a last resort.  

If you ever have questions or concerns about your at-home medication, make sure to reach out to your medical team for guidance. Should you ever need it, keep poison control's contact on hand in case of accidental exposure/ingestion: 1-800-222-1222.