Chemotherapy Pills, Uses, Types, Dosage, and Costs, a Guide

Posted December 11, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

Chemotherapy pills are not new treatment methods. But there’s often some confusion around when you can take them, their uses and other factors such as dosage, and how the costs stack up against other chemotherapy.

So, in this article, we’re going to answer those questions and provide a guide on chemotherapy pills. First, here’s a quick response, then we’ll move on to more details.

What are chemotherapy pills?  Chemotherapy pills are oral medication for the treatment of cancer. They work the same as receiving a traditional chemotherapy intravenous or IV. Chemo pills are convenient as they don’t need frequent doctor’s visits and are less invasive and painful. Not all chemo medications are available as pills.

That’s the brief answer to give you an overview, so now let’s further explore this.

What are Chemotherapy Pills? 

Chemotherapy Pills

Chemotherapy pills are one of the medications used for the treatment of cancer. They work the same way as any other forms of chemotherapy, such as shots, infusions, and so on.

Regarding how they work, again, it’s akin to any chemotherapy. Chemotherapy pills have certain active ingredients, depending on which type of cancer they’re intended to treat. The active ingredients kill the cancer cells and stop them from duplicating.

This prevents or slows cancer cells from growing and spreading to other parts of the body. Thus, the cancer can be prevented from reaching more severe stages.

As such, chemotherapy pills work pretty much the same as any other modes of chemotherapy you may have heard of or undergone. It’s just a different mode of administering the medication.

Uses of Chemotherapy Pills

The first use of chemotherapy pills is convenience. You can take a chemotherapy pill at home in a matter of seconds, with no real doctor’s visit or administration needed.

When you’re prescribed chemotherapy pills, your doctor will direct you on everything you need to know when it comes to the drug you’ve been prescribed. This means describing how and when to take the pill and things you may need to avoid during treatment.

The chemotherapy pills prevent you from needing to take multiple trips to the doctor’s office, which can be a lengthy wait at times. This will also reduce the burden of adjusting your schedule and plans just to visit and finish a chemotherapy session. 

The second major use of chemotherapy pills is that they’re taken orally. So there are no real physical discomforts like traditional chemotherapy. Therefore, there’s no risk of injection site reactions and no need to be pricked with needles.

The convenience and ease of taking chemotherapy pills over other methods also allow for decreased stress and anxiety. Having to head to the doctor’s office and deal with an IV for chemotherapy can often cause a build-up of anxiety.

Types of Chemotherapy Pills

It’s important to remember that not all chemotherapy medications are available as pills. 

Below are some chemotherapy pills that are used to treat different types of cancers. 

Chemotherapy pill (Generic name)Cancer type
CapecitabineBreast and Colorectal
Breast, Multiple Myeloma, Lymphoma, Ovarian, and Leukemia
EtoposideSmall-cell Lung Cancer
types of chemotherapy pills vs types of cancer

These chemotherapy pills are sometimes prescribed along with other types of medications, depending on the type, stage, and severity of cancer. 


The dosage of chemotherapy pills, just like for any other form of chemotherapy treatment, will depend on the following:

  • The type of cancer you have 
  • The type of chemo you need for your stage or condition 
  • The side effects you may experience from the pills  
  • How the chemotherapy pills work for you

Depending on these factors, you may take chemotherapy pills daily, weekly, or even once or twice a month.

Chemotherapy Pills

These pills are given in cycles over several months or more. The cycle period provides time for the medication to recover your system and helps your system grow new and healthy cells. 

However, if you forget your dose, do not attempt to take a double dose to compensate for the skipped dose the next time. Also, if you can’t take these pills for any reason or if you fall sick as soon as you take them, get advice from your doctor or chemotherapy nurse. 

Your doctor or nurse will guide you on the following things about your dose:

  • When and how often to take the pills
  • Whether or not to take them with food
  • How long before or after food you should take them
  • If there is anything that shouldn’t be taken with the pills, such as a type of food, drinks, vitamins, supplements, or any other medications. For example, grapefruit should be avoided with some chemotherapy pills. 


In general chemotherapy pills are expensive via normal consumer routes.

These high prices compensate with the convenience and comfort when compared to the traditional chemotherapy treatment. But the price of course depends on the type of chemotherapy pill and your dose.

Depending on the type of chemotherapy pill, some insurance companies may not cover the cost or cover half of the cost. Even if you manage to get some assistance from the insurance program, you will still need to pay a high out-of-pocket cost, depending on your insurance plan.

Sadly, sometimes the out-of-pocket cost for you will be more than what you would have paid for traditional chemotherapy (IV chemotherapy). So, make sure to read and verify the cost-benefit for you.

However, it is important to note that other expenses may add up through your chemotherapy treatment, regardless of the administration method you use. For example, if you go the IV route, which may require more doctor’s visits, you often have to pay for that doctor’s visit plus pay for the IV treatment.

The Best Cost Option

To dramatically reduce the cost of your medications, you can take advantage of patient assistance programs through us here at Prescription Hope.

This can potentially reduce your meds to just $50 per month per medication. It’s simple and quick to enroll too! 


Ideally, you need to consult with your doctor to ascertain which method of chemotherapy best suits your needs. Whether pills are a suitable route for you will depend on a number of factors and your doctor will discuss these with you.

If you’re having trouble affording any of your medications, enroll with us and see if you qualify to pay only $50 a month for each of your medications.