If you’re receiving treatment for cancer, you’ll most likely need to spend some time in a hospital or clinic. But in some cases, aspects of cancer treatment can be managed at home.
To learn about your home treatment options, talk with your cancer care team. Here are some questions that you can ask to get the information you need.
Depending on your personal preferences and living situation, you might find it more convenient or comfortable to receive treatment at home. In some cases, home treatment might also be less expensive than visiting a hospital or clinic. You’ll be able to avoid commuting time and possibly cut down on waiting time.
If you’re self-administering medications rather than receiving them from a trained professional, you might be more likely to make a mistake. You might also be less prepared to recognize and respond to potential side effects of a treatment or complications of cancer.
Your cancer care team can assess your medical condition, treatment plan, and living situation to determine if home treatment is an option for you.
They will likely take into account:
- the type and stage of cancer you have
- any other medical conditions you have
- your treatment plan, including your prescribed drug regimen
- your risk of developing complications from cancer or side effects from treatment
- the location and condition of your home, including its distance from the hospital
- the number and ages of people you live with, as well as their ability to assist you during treatment
Some cancer medications can be administered at home, including some types of:
- intravenous (IV) chemotherapy or antibiotics
- therapies administered by patch or suppository
It’s important to take your medications as prescribed. If you think you might be experiencing side effects from a medication, contact your cancer care team right away.
A homecare nurse or other healthcare professional might be able to visit you at home to give you medications. They can teach a caregiver how to administer your medications, or teach you how to self-administer them.
A homecare nurse can also teach you how to:
- organize and store your medications
- check, clean, and dress injection or IV sites
- recognize and respond to potential problems, such as side effects from medication or infection at an injection site
They can also teach you how to safely dispose of needles, syringes, or other medical waste.
If you live with family members or other people, they might be able to provide support during home treatment. Depending on their age and ability, they can:
- help organize, store, and administer your medications
- maintain a list of names and contact information for members of your cancer care team
- call your care team or local emergency medical services when needed
- provide help with basic care activities, such as meal preparation
- provide emotional and social support
Your cancer care team plays an important role in keeping you healthy, even if you’re receiving home treatment. Members of your care team might encourage you to contact them if you:
- need to refill a prescription
- spill, lose, or forget to take a dose of medication
- have trouble self-administering your medication
- experience uncomfortable side effects
- develop a fever or signs of infection at an injection or IV site
- develop unexpected or alarming changes in your condition
If you develop signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction to medication, your cancer care team will likely advise you to contact emergency medical services (e.g., 911).
Ask your cancer care team to teach you how to recognize the potential signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and other problems. Make sure that you have up-to-date contact information for members of your team.
Self-administering treatment at home is often less expensive than receiving treatment in a hospital or clinic. But in some cases, health insurance plans don’t cover the costs of home treatment. If you have health insurance, your cancer care team may encourage you to contact your insurance provider to learn if home treatments are covered.
If you’re interested in knowing more about options for at-home cancer treatments, talk to your doctor or your cancer care team. Depending on your treatment plan, you may be able to self-administer some of your medications at home.