Dacarbazine (Generic Name)

Other Names: DIC, DTIC-Dome®, imidazole carboxamide

About This Drug

Dacarbazine is used to treat cancer. This drug is given intravenously (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow depression usually occurs 10 to 14 days after this drug is given and may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may occur within hours after you receive the drug and may last for one or two days.
  • Hair loss. Most patients experience scalp and body hair loss. You may notice hair thinning several days after receiving this drug. Usually hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.
  • Skin and tissue irritation. You may have redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This irritation occurs if the drug leaks out of the vein and into surrounding tissue.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). Photosensitivity means that you may become more sensitive to the effects of the sun, sun lamps, and tanning beds. Your eyes may water more, especially in bright light.
  • Decreased appetite
  • Inflammation of the mucosa of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract including the mouth.
  • Flu-like symptoms for a few days after receiving this drug: fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and fatigue.
  • Changes in liver enzymes. Liver enzymes will be checked as needed.
  • Effects on the nerves called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. It may be difficult for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk normally. The effect on the nerves may get worse with additional doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it may not get better in some people.
    • Be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.

Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns

  • In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations. In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are receiving this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period. Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.
    • Pregnancy warning : It is not known if this drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child.  For this reason, be sure to speak with your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while receiving this drug. 
    • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
    • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred. 
    • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.

Treating Side Effects

  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gently brushing with a very soft tooth brush and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of ½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. Do this at least after every meal and at bedtime.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting.
  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated.
  • Be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.
  • During the IV infusion, if you experience pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV infusion, please tell your nurse immediately.
  • Speak with your nurse about obtaining a wig before you lose your hair.  Also, call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 to find out information about the “Look Good...Feel Better” program close to where you live. It is a free program where women undergoing chemotherapy learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when you are outdoors even for a short time. Cover up when you are out in the sun. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Keep your neck, chest, and back covered.
  • Avoid sun lamps, tanning booths, and tanning beds.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of Dacarbazine with food. This drug may interact with other medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medication and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's advice.

Allergic Reactions

Serious allergic reactions including anaphylaxis are rare.

Tell your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms during the time you are receiving this drug:

  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Flushing/itching/rash/hives

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Temperature of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rash or itching
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than three times in one day
  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site
  • Chest pain

 

Notify your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Persistent loss of appetite or loss of five pounds or more in one week
  • Extreme tiredness that interferes with normal activities

Revised December 2011

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