Preparing for Chemotherapy

This information is intended for the patients, friends and families of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

It has been created to answer many of the questions you may have about your treatment, how to prepare and what it will be like. It also contains suggestions about caring for yourself during treatment.

Getting ready for chemotherapy can be scary and overwhelming. We encourage you to take these 4 steps to best prepare for chemotherapy:

image of infusion area

#1: Learn about chemotherapy

To understand what chemotherapy is, how it is administered and what side effects may occur during or after your treatment, read the booklet Chemotherapy and Yougoing to a new website before your treatment begins. This booklet provides information that will be used before, during and after treatment. As you review this material, write down your questions in the area at the end of this booklet. Bring this booklet with your questions to your clinic appointment and discuss them with a member of your treatment team.

It is helpful to look at the chemotherapy educational material given to you before you receive your first treatment. This includes items for clinical trials such as an informed consent, drug information sheets, nutrition information and more! This can be a lot to review, so it might be helpful to choose an information gatherer. This is someone who will read the information and let you know what you need to know, when you need to know it.

Cancer Center Patients:
You will be called by a cancer nurse educator in the Cancer Skills Lab prior to treatment. The nurse will review your chemotherapy education and is available to answer questions you may have before treatment. An appointment can be made at no charge Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm by calling 877-907-0859.

#2: Develop a flexible plan

Chemotherapy is given in separate "sessions" over one or more days. These sessions are grouped together and called a "cycle". Each grouping or "cycle" of chemotherapy is repeated several times with a gap of time in-between. The time between cycles of chemotherapy is usually two to three weeks, but will vary according to the type of chemotherapy.

Your doctor will review the usual schedule for your chemotherapy. However, chemotherapy schedules change often during a cycle for a number of reasons. Thus, you will need to be flexible about your schedule in advance. Make room for treatment delays, changes in start/stop date, etc.

#3: Schedule a pretreatment dental checkup if timing allows

The mouth can be a source of infection during some types of chemotherapy treatment. For this reason, it is helpful to have a checkup before you begin treatment if you have not had one in the last 6 months. If a dental check-up is not possible before your treatment begins, discuss this with your cancer doctor.

This is a good time to review the mouth care section in the Chemotherapy and You booklet. You can find it on pages 35-37. Follow the instructions for mouth rinses that are described in this section.

Techniques for Stress Reduction

These are a few suggested activities. Every patient is different and will find help in different ways. If an activity doesn't help, try another.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises
  • Biofeedback
  • Guided Imagery
  • Distraction: Music, Art, Hobbies
  • Journaling

Visit the Patient Education Resource Center on level B1 of the Cancer Center for information on these programs at the University of Michigan or visit For Cancer Center Patients.


#4: Take care of YOU

Treatment can be a stressful time for you and for those around you. It is important that you focus on your needs during this time. The following is a list of suggestions to help you:
  • Ask for Help
    Select someone close to you to help organize help for the chores and activities you would normally do. Learning to accept help from others can be difficult, but may be necessary. If you can learn to let others help . . . they'll be happy doing it, and you'll be happy to have things done!
  • Reduce Stress
    Identify one or two ways to reduce stress and relax. Practice them before your treatment begins. Plan to use these techniques on the day of treatment.
  • Be Comfortable
    Plan to be comfortable during your infusion chemotherapy appointment. Most patients like to wear loose, comfortable clothing. Also, you may need to roll-up your sleeves. Wear clothing that allows you to do this.
  • Dress for Safety
    Patients receiving infusion chemotherapy may experience sedation or other symptoms that place them at risk for falling. We are committed to keeping you safe in the chemotherapy infusion areas. Please help us by wearing sensible, stable shoes like athletic shoes or slip-resistant socks.
  • Gather Supplies
    Stock up on items you may need after treatment such as dressing supplies, medications, food and beverages. All patients should also have a thermometer in their house and be able to read it.

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