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Staff Ed: Anticancer Medicines (Chemotherapy)

Anticancer medicines (also called chemotherapy) can help save or prolong the lives of patients with cancer. But they can pose a hazard to nurses and pharmacists who mix them or to housekeeping staff who clean up spills and remove waste. Follow the tips below, along with your employer’s safety standards, and you’ll help keep everyone safe.

Use PPE (personal protective equipment)

Wear PPE during preparation and administration of medicines.

Work safely

Mix medicines in a safety cabinet. Other actions, such as removing needles from vials, removing air from syringes, and priming tubing and administration sets, should also be done in a safety cabinet.

Check labels

Clearly label all medicines and equipment and replace any torn labels. Ensure containers with hazardous medicines have a warning label noting the need for special handling and disposal.

Transport safely

Hand-carry or transport materials in a thick, leak-proof container.

Dispose of waste

All medicine waste should be placed in properly labeled, sealed bags and discarded in properly labeled waste bins.

Clean up spills

Clean up spills immediately. Use a spill kit and follow your facility's procedure for cleaning. Wear full protective clothing and a respirator.

Risks of exposure

Medicines that kill cancer cells can affect normal cells, too. Some of the side effects from workplace exposure may include skin rash, infertility, birth defects, and cancer.

Online Medical Reviewer: Maryann Foley RN BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Richard LoCicero MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2021
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