Driving Yourself After Chemotherapy

Consult with your oncologist and consider the potential side effects

A person’s response to chemotherapy can vary significantly, with some people able to function better than others. This can lead some to believe that they’re able to manage perfectly well following a treatment session, and that may be true. But does this mean that driving home on your own after chemotherapy is necessarily a good idea?

A patient receiving chemotherapy treatment
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Consult Your Oncologist Before Starting Chemotherapy

Maintaining independence as you go through chemotherapy is an understandable goal. This can include driving to and from appointments and treatment sessions, as well as all of the other work and family obligations for which you may need a car.

As a rule, safety always comes first. After all, if any routine is suddenly affected in a way that can cause harm to you or others, you would avoid it, right? The same applies to driving.

Before starting chemotherapy, have a discussion with your oncologist about the issue. What the healthcare provider will advise will depend largely on the type of chemotherapy you are receiving, your current level of functioning, and any other medical conditions you may have.

Side Effects Can Affect Judgment, Motor Skills and Vision

Your healthcare provider will typically tell you is that the side effects of chemotherapy can affect judgment, motor skills, and vision. These include such common symptoms as fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, which not only affect your desire to drive but your concentration and alertness, as well.

Visual changes, such as blurred vision or double vision, can also accompany chemotherapy. While this is less common than other symptoms, it can happen and seriously impact your ability as a motorist. Moreover, if you are taking any pain medications — or any drugs, for the matter — discuss them with your healthcare provider so that any drug-drug interactions can be identified well before the start of treatment.

Some of these can lead to drowsiness, which decreases your response time and can even cause you to fall asleep at the wheel. Altering dosing schedules, or even changing medications, can sometimes help alleviate the problem.

In most cases, your healthcare provider will ask you to get a ride home after your first session to see how you will tolerate the chemo. If you feel well the first time around, you may be advised that it’s okay to drive home for future sessions.

With that being said, always use your best judgment and have a backup plan should you not feel 100 percent ready to drive. Some days can be better than others, and it's good always to have a backup plan.

Making Contingency Plans

If you find that you cannot drive to and from your chemotherapy sessions, you may want to consider taking a taxi, public transportation, or asking a friend to chauffeur you. If none of these options are available, contact your local American Cancer Society chapter (800-227-2345), who can refer you to local patient transportation services.

The Society offers a special volunteer program called Road to Recovery which provides transportation assistance to those undergoing chemo. The Society's online support locator allows you to search by zip code (or city and state) and select the services you need.

A Word From Verywell

Speaking with your healthcare provider is always the best course of action when determining your ability to drive after chemotherapy. And don’t assume that if your first session goes well, there won’t be bumps in the road later down the line. Make contingencies and always use the best judgment to avoid inadvertently hurting yourself or others.

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Article Sources
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  1. Adel N. Overview of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and evidence-based therapies. Am J Manag Care. 2017;23(14 Suppl):S259-S265.

  2. Harman LE. Ophthalmic Complications Related to Chemotherapy in Medically Complex Patients. Cancer Control. 2016;23(2):150-6. doi:10.1177/107327481602300209

Additional Reading
  • ten Tije, A. “Drug-interaction and Formulation Aspects of Taxanes in the Treatment of Cancer.” 2004; 1-168; ISNB 90-9017845-7.