Chemotherapy (outpatient)

A guide for patients coming to St. Paul's Hospital for chemotherapy treatments.


You will receive your chemotherapy treatment at the Medical Short Stay Unit (MSSU)

While you are getting chemotherapy, you will need to get regular blood work done. The results of your blood work tell us:

  • If the chemotherapy is working.
  • If we need to adjust your chemotherapy dose.
  • If you need a blood transfusion.

Please talk with your doctor or nurse and ask them when you should go to the lab and have your blood checked.

Preparing for the treatment

Before coming for your chemotherapy appointments:

  • Eat a light meal.
  • Take the "before chemotherapy" drugs your doctor ordered.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing – short sleeves are preferred. This makes it easier for the nurse to start your peripheral intravenous (PIV) catheter or to access your central line.

On the day of the treatment

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • Photo identification and your BC Services Card.
  • The names and telephone numbers (home, work and cell phone numbers) of two contact people.
  • A list of any allergies you have.
  • Something to help you pass the time (e.g. book, magazine, or a device such as a tablet or laptop computer).
  • You may bring a friend or family member to stay with you.
  • You may bring food or drinks to have during your treatment. Food is not provided on the unit. We do have tea, coffee and juice available.

During the treatment

When you arrive, check in with the Medical Short Stay Unit nursing station. A staff member will direct you to one of the patient care rooms. You will either lie down on a bed or sit in a large reclining chair for the duration of your treatment.

You can expect the following to happen:

  • Your nurse will take your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. They will also answer any questions you might have.
  • Your nurse will give you medications before your chemotherapy starts. This step doesn’t apply if you’ve taken your medications before your appointment.
  • If needed, they will place an intravenous (IV) catheter in your arm. This is only done if you don’t have another kind of central line in place.
  • Your chemotherapy will be delivered by either needle (injection) or by intravenous (IV). The delivery will depend on the treatment you're receiving.

Your treatment may be as short as 30 minutes or may last up to eight hours. Please ask your nurse or doctor how long you should expect to stay.

After the treatment

Chemotherapy drugs are cytotoxic and hazardous. Cytotoxic drugs are drugs that kill or hurt some of the cells in our bodies. We use these drugs to treat many different kinds of diseases. This can include cancer, arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. Hazardous drugs need specific handling procedures before, during and after administration.

When you are getting chemotherapy, you will need to take extra care at home. Your body fluids will contain small amounts of the drug(s) you are taking. Although the drug will help you, the drug could cause problems for people who don’t need it. Body fluids that will contain some of the cytotoxic and hazardous drug include:

  • Bowel movements (poo)
  • Urine (pee)
  • Blood
  • Sputum, phlegm
  • Saliva
  • Vomit
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid

Although the risk is very low, it is important to be careful with your body fluids to keep those around you safe.

Any caregivers should wear single use disposable gloves. This will protect them when they handle any items that may have come in contact with your bodily fluids.

Support for Indigenous Peoples

The Indigenous Wellness Liaison Team is here to support your health journey. Team members offer cultural support and healthcare advocacy. Learn more below or call them at 604-682-2344,62937 or email

  • Indigenous wellness services

    The Indigenous Wellness Team at Providence is available to support Indigenous patients and their families. We are here to coordinate culturally safe wellness supports and services.

Education & resources

We will give an information package at your first visit to the MSSU. BC Cancer also offers detailed information on cancer treatment drugs.

Medical & professional referrals

To refer a patient to St. Paul’s Hospital Chemotherapy program, please contact the Hematology Division. Some of the physicians can also be reached via their private practice: