What Gemcitabine is and what it is used for?
- Gemcitabine is classified as an antimetabolites. This medicine inhibits ribonucleotide reductase that is essential for the formation of DNA and RNA. This stops the growth of cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
- Gemcitabine can be given alone or in combination with other medicines to treat many cancers, including pancreas cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.
How Gemcitabine is given?
- Gemcitabine is usually given as an infusion into a vein over 30 minutes. The infusion time depends on the treatment plan.
What should I know while receiving Gemcitabine?
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 3 and 6 months after the last dose.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- You will have regular blood tests to check that you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive gemcitabine. The dose and timing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or other side effects.
- Gemcitabine may affect fertility. You can talk to your doctor about methods of preserving fertility before treatment starts.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of gemcitabine. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially if you have heart, liver, kidney, lung or breathing problems.
Common side effects
- Low white blood cell count
You may have a higher risk of getting infections. Try to stay away from crowds and wash hands often. Tell your doctor right away if you have repeated fevers, coughing, stuffy nose, a painful urination or wound that becomes red and swollen.
- Low red blood cell count
You may look pale and get tired more easily. Let your doctor know if you experience any difficulty breathing or dizziness when changing positions.
- Low platelet count
You may have a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor know if you find red or purple dots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, or any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
- Flu like symptoms
Symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pains and shivering may occur a few hours after treatment. These symptoms generally last for 2 to 3 days. Seek medical help if you do not get any better.
- Nausea and vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Weakness and fatigue
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
- Loss of appetite
Try to eat in small quantities and have frequent meals. If your appetite doesn't get any better after a few days, talk to the doctor.
- Skin rash
A rash can be itchy, red, or painful. Tell your doctor about any skin changes that you have, they can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- Elevated liver enzymes
This is usually mild and may return to normal after treatment has ended. Seek medical help right away if you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.
- Swelling in hands and feet
Tell your doctor if your hands, arms, legs, or feet feel puffy or tender. The doctor may give medicines to reduce your symptoms and suggest ways to prevent fluid buildup.
Less common side effects
- Mouth sores
Your doctor may give you medicines that help you feel better. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve diarrhea.
- Hair loss
It may begin 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. Your hair will usually grow back after treatment has finished.
- Difficulty sleeping
Talk to your doctor if this bothers you. Treatments usually include lifestyle changes, medications, or a combination of both.
- Difficulty breathing
Talk to your doctor if you experience difficulty breathing with wheezing and coughing.
- Gemcitabine may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day can help make your recovery a smoother process.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.