How to Prep for a Cancer Treatment Hospital Stay
How to Prep for a Cancer Treatment Hospital Stay
Reviewed by Jasper Clinical Board
Last updated 5/24/21
Your regular life will be (mostly) on hold.
Hospitals can be challenging before treatment even begins.
Get to know hospital facilities, staff, and routines.
Plan to take an active role in your care.
Ask about special dietary needs.
Find out about any special policies related to Covid-19.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Cleanser for face and body
- Lotion and lip balm
- Toothbrush—one you’re okay with tossing out to avoid bringing germs home with you
- Menstrual supplies, if needed. If you expect to have mobility limitations, sanitary pads may be the easiest option. Hospital-supplied period care is typically limited to old-fashioned, bulky pads, so if you prefer something else you’ll need to bring it.
- Specialty items you might need, like denture cream, contact solution, etc.
- Makeup and hair care products. If this seems odd, consider that keeping up with daily grooming routines when possible helps some people feel more in control and connected to their “normal” lives outside the hospital. (Just be aware that for some treatments, like surgery, you’ll be instructed not to wear makeup or nail polish when you first arrive, since they can interfere with procedures).
- Dry shampoo (this stuff absorbs sweat and refreshes your hair without the need for a shower)
- Wet wipes for face and body
- Compact mirror
- Hair ties, clips, or a headscarf or wrap (a simple way to help you look and feel more put-together in a pinch, if this is important to you)
Peace & quiet kit
- Eye mask
- Sunglasses (if you’re sensitive to fluorescent light they can be a lifesaver.)
- Photo ID
- Insurance card
- List of all the medications you take regularly, including the dose and dosing schedule (include over-the-counter medications and supplements). Note all your medical conditions and any allergies and plan to provide this as a quick reference to staff.
- A list of all your healthcare providers and their phone numbers
- Medical power of attorney and living will
- List of close family and friends and their contact info
Things to help you pass the time
Other helpful items
- Flip-flops and/or slippers with non-slip soles. You’ll need these for the shower and for walking in the hospital. Flip-flops can be easiest to get in and out of without bending over if you’ll have mobility limitations.
- Notebook and pens. You’ll need to jot down notes about your care, to-do items for when you leave the hospital, and other important info.
- Your own bed pillow. Hospital pillows can have weird plastic covers and unfamiliar shapes so having your own can be a big boost to your comfort and sleep quality. Put your pillow in a distinctly colored pillowcase, so it doesn’t get confused with hospital linens (and consider bringing two so when one gets dirty you can swap out for a fresh one).
- Throw blanket. Again, opt for a noticeable color so it doesn’t get mistaken for a hospital blanket.
- A U-shaped neck pillow. This can help you sleep comfortably in an upright or gently inclined bed position if you need to.
- Extension cords or extra-long charging cords for electronics.
- A couple of plastic bags. Pack them in various sizes for laundry and other items.
- A fanny pack. Snap this onto your hospital bed for easy access to small items like tissues, lip balm, etc.
- A water bottle. Hospitals often dispense water in small cups that can spill easily and need to be refilled often, so water bottles can be a good move.
- Clothing and shoes to wear when you leave the hospital. Keep in mind weather considerations and any mobility limitations you might have after your treatment. The hospital may be able to wash clothing you wear when admitted— just ask ahead of time.
Things to leave at home
- Medication. Ask your hospital about their policies on bringing in any regular medications you take. You should have a list available with dosages and contact info for the prescribing physicians, but many hospitals prefer to dispense the actual drugs from their own pharmacies. Talk to your care team in advance about continuing regular medications while in the hospital.
- Tobacco products. If you’re a smoker you may or may not be able to use nicotine replacement products while in the hospital and the hospital may even provide them—but it depends on your treatment plan and hospital policies. Sometimes smokers are asked to quit weeks ahead of a surgery, for example, to reduce the risk of complications. Make sure to discuss this ahead of time with your medical team.
- Jewelry. You may need to remove all jewelry for treatment—it can get in the way of procedures and also be a collection spot for germs. Hospitals generally do not take responsibility for missing valuables, so it’s best to just leave all jewelry safe at home.
- Anything sentimental and irreplaceable. Photo printouts of family and friends are great! Irreplaceable family heirlooms are not. Bring items that can comfort you and make you feel more at home but nothing that you’d be crushed to lose or see damaged.
- Perfume and other strongly scented items. These can trigger allergies in hospital staff and other patients so it’s best to leave cologne, powerfully scented lotions, and perfumes at home. Some hospitals even have a scent-free policy so check whether you need to bring only unscented toiletry items with you.
The content on this website is intended to provide the best possible information for you, but should not be considered—or used as a substitute for—medical advice. If you have questions about your diagnosis or treatment, please contact your health care provider(s). For questions or comments about this content, please email us at email@example.com.