Tailoring the way patients receive treatment

Different treatment administration options could help to reduce the impact of cancer treatment on the day-to-day lives of patients and caregivers.

Each person living with cancer is different and, when it comes to treatment, everyone has their own preferences. Medical advances mean that there are new therapy options available, but treatment days can often still require travel to a specialist clinic or hospital and then hours spent waiting and finally receiving treatment.

New methods of giving (administering) cancer treatment can personalise care and reduce the impact on patients’ and caregivers’ day-to-day lives.

If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer, your healthcare team can advise you on the treatment(s) available and how they are given (administered). Not all treatments are available to be administered in different ways, but some are. Talk to your healthcare team to learn more.

How can cancer medicines be given?

Treatment for cancer should start with a comprehensive diagnosis and can include surgery, radiotherapy and/or medicines delivered in different ways, depending on the type of disease. Some medicines are available in different administration forms, while others are not. Treatment regimens often change as the disease evolves.

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Intravenous infusion, or “IV”, means that a medicine is given directly into a vein by drip as an infusion or port system (a device placed under the skin to aid the administration of treatments) so that it can enter the bloodstream directly.1

People receiving an IV infusion must go to a specialist clinic or hospital.1 It can take 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how well the medicine is tolerated and whether multiple medicines are needed (e.g. a combination treatment regimen).2,3

To avoid repeated punctures and irritation of the vein, a port system can be inserted to aid administration.1

Medicine injected under the skin is called “subcutaneous” administration.2 The active ingredients enter the subcutaneous fatty tissue and are absorbed into the bloodstream.4 Medicine that would otherwise be broken down in the digestive system can be given (administered) in this way.5

A subcutaneous injection is usually administered by a nurse or physician in a practice, clinic or therapy centre. It is usually quick and can be more easily integrated into everyday life.2

This is when medication is taken by mouth, typically in capsule or tablet form.6 The ingredients are absorbed in the digestive system and enter the bloodstream from there.7

Taking a medicine orally is usually done at home and is the easiest way, unless a person has difficulties swallowing or is experiencing nausea.5 It is important that the medicine is taken regularly and at the exact dosage prescribed. Only then can the therapy take full effect.6

Depending on how the medicine is given, it takes different routes through the body. For example, some very sensitive substances (active ingredients) can be broken down during digestion and lose their effect.5 Therefore, these medicines cannot be given as a capsule or tablet to swallow and need to be injected under the skin or into a vein.

With ever-changing cancer treatment options and a future where cancer may become a long-term chronic disease, we’re focused on improving therapy outcomes, while also developing administration options that meet the needs and preferences of patients and healthcare teams.

Each person undergoing treatment deserves an option that works for their own lifestyle and preferences.


  1. Healthline, Intravenous Medication Administration: What to Know. July 2021. Available at:Accessed July 2024

  2. Leveque D. Subcutaneous Administration of Anticancer Agents. Anticancer Research. 2014;34 (4) 1579-86

  3. ESMO perspectives, Switching from intravenous to oral or subcutaneous cancer treatment: a sustainable approach? November 2020. Available at:Accessed July 2024

  4. CPD Online. Understanding the Different Routes of Medication Administration. March 2024. Available at:Last accessed March 2024

  5. Shepherd M. Administration of drugs 1: oral route. 2011. Available at:Accessed July 2024.

  6. American Cancer Society. Getting Cancer Treatment at Home. March 2020. Available at:Accessed March 2024

  7. Azman M, et al. Intestinal Absorption Study: Challenges and Absorption Enhancement Strategies in Improving Oral Drug Delivery. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2022 Aug; 15(8): 975.


Injection, infusion or tablet?Patient discussion guide

July 2024 M-IE-00001899

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