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What to expect at your first infusion treatment

Last Modified: 3/28/2019

Every day in this country, hundreds of patients receive chemotherapy, biotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy a method of treating various forms of cancer. For those newly diagnosed, that first infusion can be unsettling. We asked the team at the Parkview Cancer Institute (PCI) to share a bit about what to expect with your initial treatment.

At PCI, we provide chemotherapy education prior to the first infusion. This is tailored specifically to each patient and the treatment they will be receiving. During chemo education class, we spend a lot of time reviewing drugs, expectations and side effects (itching, cough, etc.), but we will go through this information again at the first infusion.

How long will it take?

The first infusion may take a little longer than subsequent infusions. Depending on the medication, it may take up to an hour longer. Some medications need to go in at a slower rate the first time to ensure the patient has no reaction.

Some medication may require a pre-treatment to prevent nausea and allergic reactions. It can take an hour and a half to administer these long-acting medications. A side effect may be feeling tired; this is one reason to bring someone else along to drive you home.

How can I prepare?

Here are some tips to help make your first treatment run smoothly, for you and your care team.

  • Wear a shirt with a zipper or buttons so it is easier to get to ports. Dress in layers if you get hot.
  • While PCI chairs are heated and they will provide warm blankets for your comfort, you might want to bring a sweater in case you get cold.
  • Eat breakfast, but not a large breakfast. The medications might not make you nauseous, but nerves could.
  • Prior to the appointment, keep a normal schedule as much as possible. Go about your regular routine.
  • Bring someone with you to drive you home, just in case you have a reaction.
  • Have a support system. You may need help or distraction.
  • Write your questions down! With new processes and people, you might forget what you had on your mind before the appointment.
What if I get bored?

A lot of patients like to bring the following to pass the time:

  • Tablets – PCI does have a hotspot available
  • Books
  • Music
  • Coloring and puzzle books – PCI also has some of these available
  • Friends and family
  • Knitting or crocheting

We do have visitors from Parkview Healing Arts and pet therapy. Care providers will ask your permission before these teams approach. 


Prior to every chemo treatment, patients get lab work. These will occur either the day of the treatment or the day before, depending on the physician’s preference. These labs can take as long as 45 minutes.

The care team will take your height, weight, labs and overall health into consideration to determine if you can have chemo that day.

Other things to know
  • You can bring your own snacks if you would like, but snacks are available. PCI has a full café. You will find a menu in your infusion bay.
  • You can pick your seat. We have different types of infusion bays, including chairs with and without windows, chairs with doors, and open concept areas, if you want to talk with other patients.
  • If you have to go to the restroom, patient care technicians will assist you, if needed, and then wait outside. The bathrooms are conveniently located on the floor.
  • When you go home, stay hydrated, and limit the consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
  • If you are prescribed take-home medications, fill them prior to your treatment, in case you need them. They often prescribe separate medications to prevent and treat nausea.

If you have questions or something doesn’t feel right, call us! We have nurse navigators available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (833-724-8326).


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