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Generic Name: gemcitabine (jem SYE ta been)
Brand Name: Gemzar

What is gemcitabine?

Gemcitabine is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Gemcitabine is used to treat cancers of the pancreas, lung, ovary, and breast.

Gemcitabine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about gemcitabine?

Gemcitabine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches).

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Gemcitabine can affect your liver, kidneys, or lungs. Tell your doctor if you have stomach pain, dark urine, yellow skin or eyes, little or no urinating, swelling, rapid weight gain, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, or cough with foamy mucus.

If you receive gemcitabine during or after radiation treatment, tell your doctor right away if you have severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before receiving gemcitabine?

You should not use gemcitabine if you are allergic to it.

To make sure gemcitabine is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • kidney disease;

  • liver disease (especially cirrhosis);

  • a history of alcoholism; or

  • if you are receiving radiation treatment.

FDA pregnancy category D. Do not use gemcitabine if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

It is not known whether gemcitabine passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using gemcitabine.

How is gemcitabine used?

Gemcitabine is injected into a vein through an IV. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Gemcitabine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood will need to be tested often. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.

If any of this medicine accidentally gets on your skin, wash the area thoroughly with soap and warm water.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Contact your doctor if you miss a miss an appointment to receive your gemcitabine infusion.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while using gemcitabine?

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding or injury. Use extra care to prevent bleeding while shaving or brushing your teeth.

This medicine can pass into body fluids (including urine, feces, vomit, semen, vaginal fluid). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Patients and caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Body fluids should not be handled by a woman who is pregnant or who may become pregnant. Use condoms during sexual activity to avoid exposure to body fluids.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using gemcitabine, and avoid coming into contact with anyone who has recently received a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus could be passed on to you. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.

Gemcitabine side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

If you receive gemcitabine during or after radiation treatment, tell your doctor right away if you have severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling.

A rare but serious side effect of gemcitabine is called capillary leak syndrome. Call your doctor right away if you have signs of this condition, which may include: stuffy or runny nose followed by weakness or tired feeling, and sudden swelling in your arms, legs and other parts of the body.

Also call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fever, chills, flu symptoms, easy bruising or bleeding (nosebleeds, bleeding gums);

  • blisters or ulcers in your mouth, red or swollen gums, trouble eating or swallowing;

  • severe headache, blurred vision, buzzing in your ears, confusion, seizure (convulsions);

  • liver problems--nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);

  • signs of damaged red blood cells--bloody diarrhea, stomach pain with vomiting, blood in your urine, pale skin;

  • signs of a kidney problem--little or no urinating, painful or difficult urination, swelling in your feet or ankles; or

  • symptoms of a lung problem--sudden chest pain or discomfort, anxiety, sweating, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, gasping for breath, cough with foamy mucus, severe dizziness.

Common side effects may include:

  • nausea, vomiting;

  • fever, unusual bleeding;

  • abnormal blood or urine tests;

  • trouble breathing;

  • swelling in your hands or feet;

  • mild rash; or

  • red or pink urine.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect gemcitabine?

Other drugs may interact with gemcitabine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information about gemcitabine.
  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Copyright 1996-2012 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 6.01. Revision Date: 2014-03-31, 6:06:19 PM.

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