Alcohol and cancer treatment

Putting your life on hold can be frustrating, especially if you're used to going out and enjoying yourself. It's important to keep doing the things you enjoy. But there are things you need to know if you are drinking alcohol during cancer treatment.

Alcohol

Drinking in moderation is generally fine. However, alcohol can interfere with some treatments so make sure you check with your doctor or nurse.
If you find it difficult to moderate your drinking during treatment, help and support is always on hand. If you’re drinking too much, it’s important you are open and honest with your care team and ask someone you trust for help. Find out about NHS weekly alcohol guidelines here.

Alcohol and chemotherapy

Whether or not you can drink alcohol will depend on the types of chemotherapy drugs you have. Mixing some chemotherapy drugs with alcohol can make you very unwell. Ask your doctor or nurse for specific advice about whether drinking is safe with your chemotherapy drugs. Excessive drinking is not a good idea whatever type of chemotherapy you are on. You may also find chemotherapy makes drinks taste different so you might not enjoy the same drinks you did before. This will go back to normal once you finish treatment.

Alcohol and radiotherapy

Usually, it is fine to have small amounts of alcohol during radiotherapy treatment. There are some cases where alcohol might make your symptoms worse.
If you are having pelvic radiotherapy, alcohol can irritate your bladder. If you are having radiotherapy on your head or neck, alcohol can make a sore mouth or throat worse. Alcohol can also increase side effects like feeling tired.
Ask your doctor or radiotherapist for advice if you are not sure whether you should drink.

Planning social activities during cancer treatment

Cancer does not mean you need to stop having a social life. You might just need to plan more or find new things to do.
Try to rest during the day if you are going out in the evening. Check with your doctor or nurse about whether it is safe to drink. Consider taking anti-sickness medication before going out for a meal. Be honest with your friends about what you want and what they can do to help.
You might find your energy levels are different on treatment so make sure you have a safe way to get home at the time you are ready to leave.

Additional risks

Alcohol can interfere with your treatment. It can make some side effects worse and increase the risk of side effects like liver problems. Always be honest with your healthcare team. Everything you say is confidential.

Published May 2023
Next review 2027

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