What Doxorubicin is and what it is used for?
- Doxorubicin is classified as an anthracyline anticancer antibiotic. This drug inhibits DNA synthesis by producing DNA cross-links which halt cell replication and eventually causing cell death. This cell damage slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.
- Doxorubicin can be given alone or in combination with other medicines to treat leukemias, lymphomas, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, sarcomas, brain tumors, lung cancer, and bladder cancer. This medicine may also be used to treat other cancers, as determined by your doctor.
How Doxorubicin is given?
- Doxorubicin is given as an infusion into the vein. The infusion time depends on the treatment plan. It can be given for several minutes or as a long term infusion for up to 24 hours.
What should I need to know while receiving Doxorubicin?
- If doxorubicin leaks into the skin, it can cause severe tissue damage and blistering. Tell your nurse right away if you notice swelling, pain, or redness at the injection site during an infusion.
- Your urine, tears or sweat will turn an orange or red color after the drug is given. This happens because the drug is red and may last for one or two days.
- 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.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- Doxorubicin may affect fertility. You can talk to your doctor about methods of preserving fertility before treatment starts.
- There are many drugs may affect how doxorubicin works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- You will have regular blood tests and heart function tests to make sure you have enough blood cells and have adequate heart functions to receive doxorubicin. The timing and dosing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or side effects.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of doxorubicin. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially heart diseases, liver or kidney 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.
- 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.
- Hair loss
It may begin 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. Hair growth should return after treatment has finished.
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.
- Nail changes
The color of nail beds may change. The nails will return to normal slowly once the treatment is over.
- Skin problems
Symptoms include darkening of the skin, itching, and rash. Tell your doctor about any skin changes that you have. Your doctor can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- 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.
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve diarrhea.
- Stopped or missed periods
Doxorubicin can damage the ovaries and stop regular menstrual cycles. A womanmay experience menopausal side effects, such as flushing, emotional changes, headachesor difficulty sleeping. Usually menstrual periods may return months or years after treatment is over.You can talk to your doctor about any health or emotional concerns.
- Changes in heart function
This drugmay affect heart function, including without symptoms, such as reduced heart function, and with symptoms, such as congestive heart failure.Contact a doctor right away if you notice that you have swelling in the legs, an abnormal heartbeat or pain or tightness in your chest.
Rare but serious side effects
- Tumor lysis syndrome (TLS)
TLS is a life-threatening condition that happens when the large amount of cancer cells die too quickly and their wastes release into the blood stream. Symptoms of TLS include general fatigue, muscle cramps, abnormal heartbeat, decreased urination, throwing up, or confusion. Your doctor will monitor you closely and prescribe medicines to prevent its development.
- Secondary cancer
Doxorubicin may cause an increased risk of developing secondary cancer years later. Treatment benefits may outweigh the risk of secondary cancer. Your doctor can talk you about this.
- 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 cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.
- Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking beverages containing grapefruit. This is because grapefruits can affect how doxorubicin works and can worsen the side effects.