Preparing cancer patients and their families for chemotherapy treatment is difficult. The challenge lies in finding ways to promote self-care and improve their ability to recall instructions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of an educational video with regard to patients' ability to recall and report side effects of treatment. Patients referred for adjuvant chemotherapy for breast and colorectal cancer were randomized to receive standard pre-chemotherapy education or standard education plus addition of a video. Patients completed a base line questionnaire assessing existing knowledge and another questionnaire prior to the second chemotherapy cycle evaluating recall of information. Patients who watched the video were asked to assess the video after six cycles of chemotherapy. Telephone calls to the department reporting symptoms were monitored for both groups. The video group demonstrated trends towards higher recall in information concerning fever, mouth problems, low red cell count and prevention of constipation. They more commonly telephoned reporting medical problems of nausea, vomiting and signs of infection compared with the standard group. In summary, our study demonstrated inclusion of video to standard chemotherapy education improves retention of information regarding management of predictable chemotherapy side effects and reporting of treatment-related symptoms.