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Preparing for chemotherapy

Page last updated: February 2024

The information on this webpage has been adapted from Understanding Chemotherapy - A guide for people with cancer, their families and friends (2022 edition). This webpage was last updated in February 2024.

Expert content reviewers:

This information was developed with help from a range of health professionals and people affected by cancer who have had chemotherapy. We thank the reviewers of this booklet:

  • Prof Timothy Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, SA
  • Graham Borgas, Consumer: Dr Joanna Dewar, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Professor, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and The University of Western Australia, WA
  • Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC
  • Angela Kritikos, Senior Oncology Dietitian, Dietetic Department, Liverpool Hospital, NSW
  • Dr Kate Mahon, Director of Medical Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW
  • Georgie Pearson, Consumer; Chris Rivett, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA
  • Marissa Ryan, Acting Consultant Pharmacist (Cancer Services), Pharmacy Department, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD

Chemotherapy affects everyone differently, so it can be hard to know how to prepare for treatment.

However, there are some things you can think about doing in advance to make it easier to cope with chemotherapy treatment and any side effects that you may experience.

Resources in other languages

We have a range of resources in other languages to improve access to cancer information and support for culturally and linguistically diverse Victorians. 

You can also call 13 14 50 to talk to a cancer nurse in your own language.

Learn more

Ask about fertility

Some types of chemotherapy can affect your fertility. If you think you may want to have children in future, talk to your oncologist about your options before chemotherapy begins.

Pack a chemo bag

A bag for your chemo sessions could include:

  • warm clothing in case you get cold
  • healthy snacks
  • lip balm, and
  • something to pass the time, such as books, magazines, crossword puzzles, music with headphones, or a laptop computer or tablet.

Look after yourself

Try to stay as healthy as you can before and during treatment. Good nutrition and regular exercise can help reduce some of the side effects of chemotherapy, including:

  • eating nourishing food
  • drinking lots of water
  • getting enough sleep
  • balancing rest and physical activity.

Read more about Exercise and Nutrition while undergoing treatment for cancer.

Organise help at home

If you have young children, you may need to arrange for someone to look after them during the treatment sessions and possibly afterwards if you become unwell from side effects.

Older children may need lifts to and from school and activities. Some support with housework and errands can also ease the load.

Ask one friend or family member to coordinate offers of help, or use an online tool such as or

Discuss your concerns

If you are feeling anxious about the diagnosis and having chemotherapy, talk to a family member or friend, your GP or a member of your health care team, or call 13 11 20 for support.

You could also learn relaxation or meditation strategies to cope with anxiety.

Freeze some meals

You may not feel like cooking during the weeks of your chemotherapy treatment. Consider making some meals ahead and freezing them. Sometimes, family and friends will arrange a meal roster.

Talk to your employer

If you are working, talk to your employer about how much time you are likely to need off. It is hard to predict how chemotherapy will affect you, so you could discuss the option of flexible hours or taking some leave.

Check your teeth

It is often a good idea to visit your dentist for a checkup before chemotherapy begins. The dentist can check for any current mouth infections that may cause issues if chemotherapy affects your immune system.

Prepare for side effects

Talk to your treatment team about the likely side effects of the chemotherapy drugs you are having. Ask whether you can take medicine to prevent nausea and vomiting.

If you may lose your hair, think about whether you want to cut your hair before treatment starts.

Check other medicines

Make sure your oncologist knows about any other medicines or therapies you are using. Some over-the-counter medicines, home remedies, herbs and vitamins can interfere with the chemotherapy.


Understanding Chemotherapy

Download our Understanding Chemotherapy booklet to learn more

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