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Healthcare: Cancer Care

Chemotherapy Medication

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Note: Listed below are the drugs used in chemotherapy and their most common side effects. Other side effects may occur. Please report any persistent or severe problems to your physician.

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Adriamycin (Doxorubicin)

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Adriamycin belongs to a group of medicines known as anti-tumor antibiotics. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Adriamycin, which is a red fluid, is administered intravenously.

Possible Side Effects

  • Urine color may be red to reddish-orange lasting 1-2 days
  • Mild to moderate nausea and vomiting beginning a few hours following treatment, lasting up to a day
  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells) that could result in infection, bleeding or anemia
  • Complete hair loss, starting 2-3 weeks after first dose
  • Sores in mouth or on lips
  • Darkening of nail beds and skin
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Changes in heart function - uncommon with conventional doses
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain (burning or stinging) or redness, around the intravenous site caused from leakage of the drug
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Carboplatin (Paraplatin)

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Carboplatin belongs to a group of medicines known as alkylating agents. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Carboplatin is given in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) that could lead to infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Hair loss - minimal
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Changes in kidney function. Increase fluid intake to 8 glasses daily, the day before, the day of, and the day following treatment
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Ringing in ears or hearing loss
  • Sores in mouth or on lips
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Cytoxan (Cyclophosphamide)

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Cytoxan belongs to a group of medicines known as alkylating agents that work by slowing the growth of, or destroying, cancer cells in the body. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Cytoxan is usually administered intravenously, although it may be taken as a tablet.

Possible Side Effects

  • Mild to moderate nausea and vomiting - usually begins within 2-4 hours following treatment and may last up to 24 hours
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) that could result in infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Hair loss
  • Sinus congestion with infusion
  • Metallic taste
  • Missed or irregular menstrual periods
  • Fertility problems
  • Darkening of nail beds and skin
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Less Common Side Effect

  • Bladder irritation or bleeding should be reported immediately. Drink plenty of fluids after treatment. Empty your bladder every few hours for the first 8 hours after treatment.
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Doxil (Doxorubicin Liposomal)

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Doxorubicin belongs to a group of medicines known as anti-tumor antibiotics. Doxil is doxorubicin encapsulated in a lipid (fat) droplet. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Doxil, which is a red fluid, is given in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) leading to infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Sores in mouth or on lips, taste changes
  • Soreness and redness of palms of hands and soles of feet. Notify your nurse/physician if uncomfortable.
  • Increased sensitivity of skin to sun exposure. Use sunscreen.
  • Flu-like symptoms - headache, back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting - mild
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Hair thinning
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Infusion related allergic reaction with shortness of breath, flushing, chills, tightness of chest or throat, decreased blood pressure
  • Changes in heart muscle function - uncommon with conventional doses
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Ellence (Epirubicin)

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Ellence belongs to a group of medicines known as anti-tumor antibiotics. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Ellence, which is a red-colored fluid, is given in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) that could lead to infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Hair loss - thinning to complete
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sores in mouth or on lips, taste changes
  • Urine color may be pinkish-red lasting 1-2 days
  • Skin rash and itching
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Changes in heart muscle function - uncommon with conventional doses
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in nails - darkening, white lines
  • Pain (burning or stinging) or redness, around the intravenous site caused from leakage of the drug
  • Allergic reaction - rare
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Changes in heart muscle function - uncommon with conventional doses
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in nails - darkening, white lines
  • Pain (burning or stinging) or redness, around the intravenous site caused from leakage of the drug
  • Allergic reaction - rare
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5-FU (Fluorouracil)

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5-FU belongs to a group of medicines known as antimetabolites. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. 5-FU is usually given in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Sores in mouth or on lips
  • Diarrhea (report if more than four loose stools per day)
  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) that could lead to infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Headaches and/or mild visual disturbances
  • Skin rash, itching, or darkening, discoloration of vein used for infusion
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Mild nausea and vomiting
  • Thinning of hair
  • Changes in nails - more brittle or chipped
  • Increased sensitivity of skin to sun exposure
  • Soreness and redness on palms of hands and soles of feet. Notify your nurse/physician if uncomfortable.
  • Eye changes may include tearing, dryness, or blurred vision
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Gemzar (Gemcitabine)

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Gemzar belongs to a group of medicines known as antimetabolites. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Gemzar is given in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) that could result in infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Skin rash, may have some itching
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, chill, headache, cough, muscle pain, weakness)
  • Swelling of legs, hands, or abdomen
  • Tingling in hands or feet
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Sores in mouth or on lips
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Mild to moderate nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Minimal hair loss
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, chest pain - rare
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Methotrexate (Mexate, Folex)

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Methotrexate belongs to a group of medicines known as antimetabolites. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer as well as non-cancerous conditions. Methotrexate may be given orally, by intramuscular injection, or in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) that could lead to infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Sores in mouth or on lips. Notify nurse/physician if severe.
  • Diarrhea - report if more than four loose stools per day
  • Skin rash, itching, or darkening
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight or prolonged sun exposure. Use sunscreens.
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Mild nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, taste changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Minimal hair loss
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Navelbine (Vinorelbine)

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Navelbine belongs to a group of medicines known as vinca or plant alkaloids. It is used to treat some kinds of cancer. Navelbine is given in the vein.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, red blood cells) that could result in infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Mild to moderate fatigue
  • Minimal hair loss
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Sores in mouth or on lips
  • Numbness or tingling of hands and feet
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Mild nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Redness, increased warmth, pain or discoloration of vein at injection site
  • Allergic reaction - rare
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Taxol (Paclitaxel)

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Taxol belongs to a group of medicines known as antimicrotubule agents that interfere with the cancer cell's ability to reproduce. Taxol is administered as an infusion in the vein over approximately three hours.

Possible Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) that could result in fever, anemia, and bleeding
  • Muscle and joint pain beginning 2-3 days after treatment, lasting 2-3 days. Anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e., ibuprofen) and Tylenol help decrease discomfort
  • Hair loss beginning 2-3 weeks after first dose
  • Numbness, burning or tingling in hands and feet
  • Mild nausea and vomiting
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Hypersensitivity reaction - shortness of breath, flushing of face, low blood pressure. Severe reactions may occur. You will be given premedication including Decadron (dexamethasone) to minimize this reaction.
  • Sores in mouth or on lips
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Taxotere (Docetaxel)

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Taxotere belongs to a group of medicines known as antimicrotubule agents. This particular drug damages the structures involved in cell division, which stops growth of cancer cells. It is used to treat some kinds of cancers. Taxotere is usually administered intravenously.

Possible Side Effects

  • Fluid retention, usually beginning in the legs but may be generalized. You will be given Decadron (Dexamethasone) to minimize this reaction.
  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, platelets, and red blood cells) that could result in infection, bleeding, or anemia
  • Mild nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Sores in mouth and on lips
  • Muscle and joint aches 2-3 days after infusion. May last 3-5 days.
  • Numbness and/or tingling of hands and feet
  • Hair loss beginning 2-3 weeks after first treatment
  • Skin rash; red, swollen or peeling areas of skin; changes in nail bed color (darkening)
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Xeloda (Capecitabine)

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Xeloda is a medicine that is changed in the body to 5-fluorouracil, an anti-cancer agent which interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells. It is taken by mouth as capsules twice daily. The capsules should be taken 12 hours apart.

Possible Side Effects

  • Soreness and redness of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Notify your nurse/physician if uncomfortable.
  • Sores in mouth and on lips
  • Nausea - usually mild
  • Diarrhea - notify nurse/physician if more than 4 times in 24 hours
  • Abdominal pain and constipation
  • Loss of appetite
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Decrease in blood cell counts (white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets) that could result in infection, anemia, and bleeding.
  • Increased production of tears
  • Headache and dizziness