Gemcitabine (Gemzar) belongs to the class of medicines known as antimetabolites. It's used together with other medicines or alone to treat cancers of the ovary, breast, lung and pancreas. It may also help treat other types of cancer, as decided by your doctor.
Gemcitabine stops cancer cells from growing, eventually destroying them. As this medicine may also affect the growth of regular cells, other effects will occur as well. Some of them may be severe and you must report them to your physician. Other effects, including hair loss, may cause concern but may be less serious. Some Gemcitabine effects may happen even after you stop treatment.
Gemcitabine is only available with a physician's prescription under the brand name Gemzar.
Like any treatment, side effects may occur with Gemcitabine treatment. Everybody reacts differently to medications and some persons suffer more effects than others. The following effects won't affect everyone and they can normally be controlled. If you're receiving other anticancer or chemotherapy medications with Gemcitabine, you also may experience side effects from those medications.
If you're worried about any of these side effects, please talk to your cancer specialist (oncologist) or chemotherapy nurse.
Common side effects
Less common Gemcitabine side effects:
These aren't all the possible Gemcitabine side effects. Please speak to your nurse or doctor for more details if you develop anything out of the ordinary.
Gemcitabine is normally used together with another chemotherapy medication, either Paclitaxel (Taxol) or Carboplatin.
Gemcitabine is given into a vein as a drip (intravenously) in the arm or hand, but there are other methods of administering it depending on such factors as your preferences and how simple it is for medical staff to locate suitable veins.
Chemotherapy is usually given in a series of therapies with a recess between each therapy to allow your body to recuperate from any temporary side effects. The therapy and interval before the next therapy begins is called a cycle.
A Gemcitabine cycle, with either paclitaxel or carboplatin, lasts 3 weeks, with treatment administered on the first and eighth days of the cycle.
The full number of treatment cycles will be based on your specific situation. Your cancer specialist will talk about this with you.
When you're taking Gemcitabine, it's critically important to let your healthcare specialist know if you're using any of the drugs listed below. These interactions aren't necessary all-inclusive and have been picked based on their potential impact.
Using Gemcitabine with any of these drugs isn't recommended. Your healthcare specialist may opt to not treat you with Gemcitabine or may ask you to stop taking some of the drugs.
Using Gemcitabine with any of these drugs is normally not advised, but it sometimes may be necessary. If your doctor prescribes both drugs together, he or she may alter your dose or the frequency of using both or one of the medications.
It's vitally important for your healthcare specialist to regularly check your progress to ensure that Gemcitabine is working well. You'll need blood tests to check for undesirable effects.
While receiving Gemcitabine, and after the end of the treatment, do not receive any vaccinations (immunizations) without informing your doctor first. Gemcitabine may reduce your body's resistance, potentially causing you the infection for which you receive the immunization.
In addition, other people living in your house shouldn't have oral polio vaccine, because there's a possibility they might give you the polio virus. Also, avoid people who have received oral polio vaccine in the last few months. If you can't observe these precautions, please consider putting on a protective mask to cover your mouth and nose.
Gemcitabine can make you drowsy. Please don't use machinery, drive, or do anything that requires you to be alert until you're certain you can do such things safely. Take alcoholic drinks in moderation.
Before having an operation, inform your dentist or doctor about all the medicine products you take (such as prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements).
Gemcitabine may make you highly likely to suffer infections or can worsen any existing infections. Please stay away from people with infections that can spread to others (like flu, measles, and chickenpox). Consult your healthcare specialist for more information or if you've been exposed to any infection.
Chemotherapy medications can lower your blood cell count. Having fewer white blood cells can increase your vulnerability to infections. Having fewer red blood cells leads to anemia and having fewer platelets can cause blood clotting problems. For this reason, you'll require blood tests regularly to check your blood cells during Gemcitabine treatment.
If your blood cell count drops, there are some precautions you should take to lower the risk of bleeding or infection:
Tell your doctor promptly if you suffer any of the symptoms below during your treatment with this medicine, as they can indicate issues with blood cells, sore throat or mouth, unexplained bleeding or bruising, purple spots, fever (high temperature) or other infection signs, mouth ulcers, or suddenly feeling breathless, tired, or generally unwell.
You'll also need blood tests regularly to monitor your liver and kidney function while you're receiving Gemcitabine treatment.
Gemcitabine may affect your lungs. Please tell your healthcare professional if you develop shortness of breath or any breathing difficulty during treatment with Gemcitabine.
Since Gemcitabine may harm an unborn child, you should make use of effective birth control methods to avoid fathering a child or getting pregnant during treatment. Continue to use birth control to avoid getting pregnant for at least 6 months after you stop treatment with Gemcitabine. Women should immediately consult their doctor if they get pregnant while receiving treatment.
It's unknown whether Gemcitabine is released into human milk. Women who are receiving Gemcitabine treatment shouldn't breastfeed. Please consult your doctor about this.
This medicine may affect your ability to father a child or get pregnant. It's vital to talk about fertility with your physician before commencing treatment.
You should not use Gemcitabine if you've got allergies to some of its ingredients. Be sure to inform your pharmacist and physician if you have had such an allergy before.
If you feel you've had an allergy, stop using Gemcitabine and alert your physician and pharmacist promptly.
Since you'll receive Gemcitabine in a hospital or clinic environment, you won't keep it at home.
Gemcitabine is injected through an IV into a vein. You'll receive the injection in a hospital or clinic environment. Gemcitabine is normally given once per week for a number of weeks. The medication must be administered slowly, and it may take up to half an hour to complete the IV infusion.
Gemcitabine can decrease your blood cell count, making you more susceptible to infections. This may make you fall ill from being around people who are ill or bleed more easily from an injury. To ensure your blood cell count doesn't drop too low, you'll need regular blood tests. You may also need liver and kidney function tests. Don't miss any scheduled appointments with your doctor.
Gemcitabine may affect your lungs, kidneys, or liver. Tell your physician if you've got stomach pain, yellow eyes/skin, dark urine, swelling, little or no urination, very serious shortness of breath, rapid weight gain, wheezing, or a cough containing foamy mucus.
Do not have a œlive vaccine while you're receiving Gemcitabine treatment, and avoid being around anyone who has had a live vaccine recently. There's a possibility that you could get the virus.
If you receive this medication after or during treatment, alert your doctor at once if you develop skin redness, oozing, peeling, or swelling. If a drop of Gemcitabine comes into contact with your skin, make sure to thoroughly wash the area with warm water and soap.
Gemcitabine may also be taken for other purposes not discussed above. For more details, please consult your healthcare provider.