What Cytarabine is and what it is used for?
- Cytarabine belongs to a group of medicines called antimetabolites. This drug inhibits DNA and RNA synthesis, thus stopping cell replication and eventually causing cell death. This cell damage slows and stops the growth of cancer cells in your body.
- Cytarabine is used alone or in combination with other medicines to treat certain types of leukemia, including acute myeloid leukemia (AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. It also used to treat certain types of lymphoma found in the the brain and spinal cord, as determined by your doctor.
How Cytarabine is given?
- Cytarabine can be given as an injection under the skin or as an infusion into a vein. The infusion time is dependent on the treatment plan. This drug may also be injected into the area around the spinal cord.
What should I know while receiving Cytarabine?
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months after the treatment ends.
- Cytarabine may affect fertility. You can talk to your doctor about methods of preserving fertility before treatment starts.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- You will have regular blood and bone marrow tests during treatment. The tests help your doctor understand how well cytarabine is working and monitor any side effect you might get. The timing and dosing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or other side effects.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of cytarabine. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially if you have heart, liver, lung, nerve or eye problems.
- There are many drugs may affect how cytarabine works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
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, 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.
- 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.
- Mouth sore
Your doctor may give you medicines that help you feel better. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
Ask your doctor about medicines that can relieve diarrhea. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes may help.
- Loss of appetite
Try to eat in small quantities and have frequent meals. If your appetite does not get any better after a few days, tell your 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.
- 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.
Less common side effects
- Eye irritation
This is more common in patients receiving high dose therapy. You might have dry eyes or infection in the eyes. Tell your doctor if this happens. Medicines can be given to relieve symptoms.
- Changes in liver function
This is more common in patients receiving high dose therapy. This is usually mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. The liver functions will return to normal after treatment ends. Seek medical help right away if you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen.
- Nervous system problems
This is more common in patients receiving high dose therapy. You may feel very dizzy or sleepy, or may experience difficulty thinking and a sudden loss of balance. Problems may start within a few days after receiving cytarabine and may last for 1 week. Tell your doctor if you begin to feel any of these symptoms.
- Hand-foot syndrome
You may have redness, swelling, and pain on the palms of hands and soles of feet. This is more common in patients receiving high dose therapy. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you have, they will help you manage the symptoms.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day during treatment 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 cigarettes during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.