Hearing that you need chemotherapy is a scary thing for people for lots of reasons.  While chemo can be given in different ways, it is often given through an iv (intravenous) drip. The thought of having a needle put into a vein (or needles full stop!) is something that people get very anxious about. After all, it’s a normal reaction not to like something sharp that is going to hurt you!

The nurses putting in your iv drips are very practised, and understand how stressful it can be for you. Let them know if you have a particular fear of needles and what strategies have helped you before, such as distraction by chatting to a friend, keeping needles and equipment out of sight, telling you what is happening step by step, or not telling you details and just getting it done!

Ways for you to help include drinking plenty of fluid before coming to your appointment. Although this can be hard when you’re busy and hurrying to get to your clinic appointment, let alone any extra toilet stops involved, but being well hydrated will make your veins fuller and easier to put the iv drip in.

Having warm hands can really help too. Wear gloves if it’s cold outside, and wash your hands with warm water. Some centres use a heat pack to warm hands before cannulating, but a bowl or sink of warm/hot water works wonders as well. You know your veins best, so tell your nurse if any particular spots are usually good for you, or not so successful or comfortable.

For those with particular anxiety, medication may be useful to help relax you, so talk to the nurse or doctor about having something ahead of time to make the procedure easier for you, either a tablet or a cream to help numb your skin.

Other people have found that general stress reducing activities have helped, such as massage, relaxations CD’s and hypnosis. Talk to your local Cancer Society for more information, or call the cancer information nurses on 0800226237

Let us know what has worked for you, and share it on this forum. Your tried and true strategies could help others!


Cancer Information Nurse

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