Irinotecan Hydrochloride (Generic Name)

Other Names: CamptosarĀ®, camptothecin-11, CPT-11

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

Possible Side Effects

  • Diarrhea may be severe. It can occur while receiving the drug by IV or soon after. You may also have abdominal cramping and sweating. Diarrhea can be prolonged and lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow depression usually occurs seven to 14 days after the drug is given and may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • 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 complete.
  • 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.
  • Weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may occur. 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.
      • This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
      • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effect 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.

Treating Side Effects

  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting.
  • Check with your doctor or nurse before you use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about obtaining a wig before you have a lot of hair loss.
  • Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment.
  • Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during
    sexual relations.
  • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children. Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of irinotecan hydrochloride and any food. This drug may interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist all the medications that you are currently taking.

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
  • 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
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting

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

  • Diarrhea of five or six stools in one day
  • Diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Abdominal pain
  • Extreme tiredness that interferes with normal activities

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