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Oral Systemic Therapy for Cancer
An online toolkit for Nurses

Historically, cancer patients who were prescribed systemic therapy (chemotherapy) received it through intravenous infusion either as an outpatient in a clinic or as an inpatient. In these controlled settings, policies and procedures with many checks and balances are in pla042014karace to ensure patient safety. There are verification check points at the time of ordering, prior to dispensing, and prior to administering systemic therapy, all of which are in place to ensure patient safety.

Today, however, the availability and use of oral systemic therapies are on the rise. While oral systemic therapies have many benefits, they introduce new challenges for patients and health care professionals. It is essential that both patients and health care professionals involved with their care recognize the complexities of the drug prescribed and the various safety measures necessary to reduce potential errors and side effects and ensure effectiveness of the treatment.

Nurses play a critical role in educating patients about their oral systemic therapy. They educate patients on how to handle, store and take their medications safely. Nurses also must educate patients about the importance of taking oral systemic therapy exactly as instructed, as well as making them aware of possible side effects and who to call should they experience difficulties.

“The Oral Systemic Therapy for Cancer tool kit was developed for nurses as a just-in-time resource to provide oncology and non-oncology nurses with the information and tools they need to care for patients on oral systemic therapy safely and knowledgeably,” said Kara Henman, an Oncology Practice Consultant for CCNS.

The online toolkit for nurses is available on the CCNS website at www.cancercare.ns.ca/nursingtools. Resources include links to quick reference tools for nurses on oncology / non-oncology / home care / long-term care units; safe handling information; standards and competencies for cancer chemotherapy nursing practices; medication information sheets; and guides for the follow up and monitoring of patients on oral systemic therapy and the Oral Systemic Therapy Patient Education: A Guide for Health Professionals. The toolkit also includes patient education resource links such as: Oral Systemic Therapy:
A Guide for Patients and Families; Cytotoxic Precautions: A Guide for Home; and the Living Well with Cancer patient education series.

“The resources were developed for all nurses who are caring for cancer patients on oral systemic therapy, particularly those practicing in non-oncology areas such as home care and long-term care,” said Kara. “To date, these resources have been very well received, and we continue to promote its availability. I encourage all nurses who are working with cancer patients on oral systemic therapy to review the toolkit and provide us with feedback.”


Kara Henman is one of two Oncology Practice Consultants at CCNS. She and Michele Rogez work with nurses in oncology and non-oncology settings, providing them with the necessary tools to provide quality care to cancer patients and their families. If you have a question or an issue you would like to discuss with Kara or Michele, you can reach them by email or phone: Kara (ccns.nshealth.ca  902-473-1796); Michele (ccns.nshelath.ca  902-567-8555) 

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