Sun & Skin News

Nine Tips for Taking Your Medication Safely: What Skin Cancer Patients Need to Know

By Skin Cancer Foundation • October 1, 2020
pharmacist advising customer about prescription

Whether you have a new, unfamiliar prescription or you’re unsure how to juggle taking several medications, here are some recommendations to be sure you’re making the safest choices.

While some skin cancers can be cured with a single surgery when caught early, many others are treated with drugs taken orally, infused intravenously or applied topically. A skin cancer diagnosis can even land you with more than one new prescription, and that’s in addition to any medications you may be taking already.

While these drugs are meant to improve your health, they can be harmful if taken incorrectly. For example, some medications interact poorly with other substances, like alcohol. Others may lose effectiveness if stored improperly. Here are nine tips to make sure you’re taking your prescription and over-the-counter medicines safely.

  1. Take all medications exactly as your doctor prescribes them to you. Make sure you carefully read the instruction labels on your prescription packages and the inserts provided by your pharmacist.
  2. Carry a current medication list to all appointments to share with your doctors. Include all vitamins and supplements, birth control pills and any topical medications (creams or ointments). Don’t forget over-the-counter medications you only use occasionally, like aspirin or ibuprofen.
  3. Bring your list of medications to your pharmacist periodically for a safety check, especially whenever new ones are added. Inform your pharmacist about any immunotherapy that an external pharmacy is providing to you through your insurance company.
  4. If your doctor prescribes multiple new medications, ask if it’s OK to stagger when you start taking them. Spacing new medications out over the course of a few days may make it easier to figure out which medication (or combination of medications) is causing a reaction if one occurs.
  5. If you think you are having an adverse reaction to a drug, call your physician’s office right away.
  6. Consider using something to organize and keep track of scheduled medications. Your pharmacist may recommend a pillbox or other options. You can set the alarm on your phone as a daily reminder, if needed.
  7. Always check that the pharmacist dispenses the same medication you discussed with your doctor.
  8. Before taking a new medication, consider getting a reading of your vital signs – your temperature, blood pressure, pulse (heart rate) and breathing rate. That way you’ll have a baseline for comparison, should you experience any reactions to the new drug.
  9. Unless the label on a medication says otherwise (i.e., “store in the refrigerator”), keep all medications in a cool, dry place.

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to speak up if something is unclear or if you have questions for your doctor or any other health-care team member.

Get more helpful information and resources for skin cancer patients:

Please note that The Skin Cancer Foundation cannot answer questions about specific medical cases. If you have a health concern, we recommend that you seek the advice of a physician.