The Essentials List of What to Pack for Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy sessions can sometimes be long, and most people will have several infusions. If you haven't had chemotherapy before or spent time with someone having an infusion, it can be hard to know what to expect.

There is a lot of "downtime" in a typical chemotherapy infusion. Many of the medications need to be infused slowly over several minutes or hours. And even before the infusion, you may spend time receiving drugs designed to reduce your risk of nausea or allergic reactions.

Going through chemotherapy can be emotionally challenging, but it can also be a chance to spend time with loved ones when you simply can't be doing anything else. When you're hooked up to an IV in the infusion clinic, you can't load the dishwasher or straighten the garage.

This article offers some advice and ideas about what to bring with you to your chemotherapy session, and how to make the best of your time there.


Comfort Items

Bring a soft pillow and throw with to chemo

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz /

Chemotherapy sessions can last a long time, so you'll need to bring things to occupy your time and keep you comfortable. It's a good idea to designate a chemotherapy bag to fill ahead of time with things like:

  • Reading and writing material
  • A portable DVD player or tablet
  • Games
  • Snacks
  • Personal items like a toothbrush and hand lotion
  • Comfortable clothes in case you become too warm, too cold, or need to stay overnight

Choosing a bag to pack your items in can be fun. Look for one that allows you to express yourself. If you are short on cash, the Lydia Project offers free totes for women going through cancer treatment, complete with some extra goodies.

You may also need to bring some larger items like a pillow and a soft new blanket. Not only does that plush throw provide physical warmth, but it can fill you with a cozy emotional warmth as well.


A Friend

Invite a friend to go with you to chemotherapy

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz /

Having a friend or loved one join you for your chemotherapy infusion can be very helpful. Nobody should face cancer alone.

Some people don't ask friends for fear of burdening them or interrupting their schedule. Keep in mind that your friends may feel helpless not knowing how to help you, and may welcome the opportunity.

Think creatively. Some people choose to bring a different friend to each session. During a long chemotherapy session, there's a lot of time to talk about things you might not ordinarily talk about. Think of it as an opportunity to deepen your friendships.

If you're still reluctant to ask your friends, don't be. Your friends may actually thank you for letting them join you!


Your Insurance Information

Bring your insurance card with to each chemotherapy appointment

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If you receive your treatment at the same cancer center where you see your oncologist, you may not think to bring your insurance card. You may just assume your information is "in the system."

Some infusion centers, however, bill separately from your regular providers. For this reason, you need to make sure you bring your insurance card or insurance information with you. This will help avoid delays if the infusion center has to try tracking down your information.

Many clinics will let you pre-register by phone before your first visit, but they often still want to see a copy of your card when come to your appointment. In fact, it's not uncommon for clinics to ask for your card at each and every visit.

Don't assume that your insurance will cover the infusion center just because it's in the same building as your oncologist. Before your appointment, check to make sure the infusion center is covered under your plan. Also, ​learn ​how to avoid errors in your explanation of benefits.

Some people go to one hospital for surgery, another for chemotherapy, and another for radiation therapy. Your out-of-pocket costs could increase rapidly if a provider, clinic, or hospital is not covered under your plan or is out-of-network.


Your Medical Records

Carry a copy of your medical records and health summary to chemotherapy

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Most oncologists and cancer clinics keep electronic medical records. Even so, it's still a good idea to keep a copy of your records for yourself.

This is especially important if you will be having medical care for your cancer at different locations. You don't need to carry a copy of every consult and study you've done, but it may be helpful to have a summary of your diagnosis and treatment plan and copies of any recent lab or imaging studies.

Learn how to get copies of your medical records if you don't already have them.


A List

Tote and list of what to bring to chemo

Devonyu /

Most people have several chemotherapy infusions. During those days or weeks between chemo sessions, the items in your bag may end up in other places.

When you pack your bag for your first session, make a list of what's in it. Bring the list with you in case you find you want to add items to it to bring for the next session. Keep the list in a safe place in a pocket of your bag or on your phone so you can easily check it before your next session.


A Bucket or Plastic Bag

Be prepared in the car just in case...

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Many people have little or no nausea or vomiting due to present-day chemotherapy. That said, it's best to be prepared. Pack a bucket or a plastic bag in your car just in case.


Chemotherapy can be a long process, and there's a lot to remember. Making a list of what to bring with you can help relieve stress and ensure that your infusions go as smoothly as possible.

Bring a bag filled with comfort items and necessities, and ask a friend to come with you. Make sure to also bring important documents like your insurance card and medical records. And although many people don't experience nausea and vomiting after chemo, it's a good idea to be prepared with a bucket or bag for the car ride home.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Society of Clinical Oncology. What to expect when having chemotherapy.

  2. National Cancer Institute. Nausea and vomiting (PDQ). Health Professional Version.

Additional Reading

By Lynne Eldridge, MD
 Lynne Eldrige, MD, is a lung cancer physician, patient advocate, and award-winning author of "Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time."