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Gemcitabine

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

Medically reviewed on April 24, 2018

What is gemcitabine?

See also: Kisqali

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.

Important Information

Gemcitabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection by changing the way your immune system works. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or new signs of infection (fever, mouth sores, unusual bruising or bleeding).

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.

Before taking this medicine

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

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Gemcitabine may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

You should not breast-feed while you are using gemcitabine.

How is gemcitabine used?

Gemcitabine is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when gemcitabine is injected.

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

Gemcitabine can increase your risk of bleeding or infection by changing the way your immune system works. You will need frequent medical tests.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your gemcitabine injection.

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.

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), polio, rotavirus, typhoid, yellow fever, varicella (chickenpox), and zoster (shingles).

gemcitabine 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.

Gemcitabine 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.

Capillary leak syndrome is a rare but serious side effect of gemcitabine. Call your doctor right away if you have signs of this condition: 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;

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

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

  • severe skin redness, swelling, oozing, or peeling during or after radiation treatment;

  • kidney problems--little or no urinating, red or pink urine, swelling in your feet or ankles;

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

  • lung problems--sudden chest pain, anxiety, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, cough with foamy mucus, severe dizziness; or

  • signs of damaged red blood cells--pale skin, bloody diarrhea, stomach pain.

Common side effects may include:

  • nausea, vomiting;

  • fever, bruising or bleeding;

  • abnormal blood or urine tests;

  • trouble breathing;

  • swelling in your hands or feet;

  • 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 affect gemcitabine, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

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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