Generic Name: doxorubicin (DOX oh ROO bi sin)
Brand Name: Adriamycin, Adriamycin RDF, Rubex, Adriamycin PFS
Medically reviewed: December 28, 2016
What is doxorubicin?
Doxorubicin is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
Doxorubicin is used to treat different types of cancers that affect the breast, bladder, ovary, thyroid, stomach, lungs, bones, nerve tissues, muscles, joints, and soft tissues. Doxorubicin is also used to treat Hodgkin's disease and certain types of leukemia.
Doxorubicin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Doxorubicin can weaken your immune system. Your blood may need to be tested often. Tell your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, body aches).
Doxorubicin may cause dangerous effects on your heart. Call your doctor at once if you have fast heartbeats, shortness of breath (even with mild exertion), or swelling in your ankles or feet.
Before taking this medicine
an untreated or uncontrolled infection (including mouth sores);
severe liver disease;
severe heart problems; or
if you have recently had a heart attack.
To make sure doxorubicin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
liver or kidney disease;
bone marrow suppression;
heart disease or a history of heart failure; or
if you have been treated before with doxorubicin, daunorubicin, epirubicin, idarubicin, or mitoxantrone.
Tell your doctor about all other cancer medicines or radiation treatments you have received in the past.
Using doxorubicin may increase your risk of developing a bone marrow disease or other types of leukemia later in life. Ask your doctor about your specific risk.
Do not use doxorubicin if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby or cause birth defects. Use birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine, whether you are a man or a woman. Doxorubicin use by either parent may cause birth defects.
If you are a woman, you should avoid pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 6 months after your last dose.
If you are a man, use effective birth control if your sexual partner is able to get pregnant. An unborn baby can be harmed if a man fathers the child while he is using doxorubicin. Keep using birth control for at least 6 months after your last dose.
Tell your doctor right away if a pregnancy occurs while either the mother or the father is using doxorubicin.
This medicine may affect fertility (your ability to have children), whether you are a man or a woman. Ask your doctor about your specific risk.
Doxorubicin can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using doxorubicin.
How is doxorubicin given?
Doxorubicin is injected into a vein through an IV. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.
Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when doxorubicin is injected.
If any of this medication accidentally gets on your skin, wash it thoroughly with soap and warm water.
Doxorubicin 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.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your doxorubicin injection.
What happens if I overdose?
Since this medication is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.
What should I avoid while taking doxorubicin?
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 (urine, feces, vomit). 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. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's 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.
Do not receive a "live" vaccine while using doxorubicin, or you could develop a serious infection. Live vaccines include measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), polio, rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), zoster (shingles), and nasal flu (influenza) vaccine.
Doxorubicin side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Some side effects may occur during the injection. Tell your caregiver right away if you feel dizzy, nauseated, light-headed, sweaty, or have a headache, chest tightness, back pain, trouble breathing, or swelling in your face.
Call your doctor at once if you have:
pain, blisters, or skin sores where the injection was given;
missed menstrual periods;
easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;
low white blood cell counts--fever, swollen gums, painful mouth sores, pain when swallowing, skin sores, cold or flu symptoms, cough, trouble breathing; or
signs of heart problems--fast heartbeats, shortness of breath (even with mild exertion), swelling in your ankles or feet.
Doxorubicin may cause your urine to turn a reddish-orange color. This side effect by itself is usually not harmful. However, call your doctor if you also have upper stomach pain, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes).
Common side effects may include:
nausea, vomiting; or
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 doxorubicin?
Other drugs may interact with doxorubicin, 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.
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.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
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More about doxorubicin
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- Drug class: antibiotics/antineoplastics
Other brands: Adriamycin