Government-issued health care (OHIP card)
Medications that you need to take.
Appointments can take several hours. Bring with you any medications you normally take during the day.
Food and snacks for the day. Please do not bring foods with strong smells because the strong smell can make chemotherapy patients in the unit uncomfortable.
A book or personal device (like an iPad or tablet) to help pass the time. Wireless internet is free and there is no password required.
Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) offers rides for patients to and from the hospital. Transportation can be arranged through the CCS.
Learn more about the Canadian Cancer Society transportation service [opens in new window] »
Learn more about what to bring to your appointment »
There are several different steps in your systemic therapy appointment:
For most treatment protocols, you need blood work done before every systemic therapy appointment. This is to make sure it is safe for you to have your drug. If your blood counts are too high or too low, it may not be safe for you to get your treatment. During your clinic visit, ask your doctor or nurse if you need bloodwork before your appointment.
Your blood work needs to be done 1 or 2 days before your systemic therapy appointment. You can have your blood work done at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre Blood Lab. The lab is located on the main floor, next to the Outpatient Pharmacy.
For your ease, you may also be able to have blood work done at a blood lab close to your home. If you choose to have your blood work done somewhere close to your home, ask your doctor for a requisition (formal request).
Read Understanding Your Blood Tests [PDF, opens in new window] for more information about blood tests and to understand the results of your blood work.
Ordering the Drugs
Your doctor orders systemic therapy for you based on your treatment plan. For each treatment appointment your health care team will review your blood test results and make sure they are good enough for the treatment.
Preparing the Drugs
After your doctor orders your treatment, the order will be reviewed by a systemic therapy nurse to make sure the order is complete.
The pharmacist reviews the order and enters it into the computer system. A technician then gathers the materials needed to make your drug.
Preparing your drug order can take a while. The technicians must make sure that they prepare your treatment drugs accurately, exactly as the doctor ordered. They must also make sure that it is sterile and that no bacteria get into the treatment. Making accurate and sterile drug orders takes time, between 1 - 2 hours.
After the drugs have been prepared, the pharmacist checks it and compares it to the order to make sure it is correct.
When it is time for your appointment, go to the reception desk in the Systemic Therapy Unit no earlier than 30 minutes before your appointment time. Take a number from the ticket machine and wait in the waiting room for your number to be called. Make sure you have your OHIP card ready. When you are called, you will be given a hospital ID bracelet and a pager.
When you check in, tell the Patient Flow Coordinator if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Mouth sores
- History of falls
Also tell the Patient Flow Coordinator if you use a mobility device. You may need to see a nurse before you start your next treatment.
The Patient Flow Coordinator will let you know if you need to take any medications before your treatment. If you do, ask the Patient Flow Coordinator what time you should take them.
Hand Washing and Infection Prevention
It is important to wash your hands well and often while you are in the hospital. Washing your hands will reduce the chances that you will become sick or get an infection.
It's okay to ask your doctor, nurse and other health care providers to wash or sanitize their hands using a gel hand sanitizer before examining you.
During flu season, you may be asked to wear a mask.
Your systemic therapy appointment may last for most of the day. The different stages of your appointment can each last several hours.
Blood work: Getting results takes 1 to 3 hours, depending on what type of blood test needs to be done.
Ordering chemotherapy: It takes about 30 minutes to check the order.
Pharmacy: It takes about 1 - 3 hours for the pharmacy to prepare the order and check it again. In most cases, your order is prepared the day before your treatment. If your treatment order is written on the day you are being treated, you may have to wait 1 - 3 hours for the pharmacy to prepare your order.
Treatment: This lasts between 30 minutes and 8 hours.