Chlorambucil (Generic Name)

Other Names: Leukeran

About this drug

Chlorambucil is used to treat cancer. It is taken by mouth.

Possible side effects

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash, skin redness, or irritation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. It may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat (rare). You may have red areas, white patches, and/or painful sores.
  • Hair loss (rare). Hair loss is usually temporary. Hair will grow back when treatment is complete.
  • Neurologic changes. You may experience:
      • Numbness, tingling, or decreased sensation in fingers and toes
      • Difficulty walking or changes in the way you walk
      • Clumsiness buttoning clothing, opening jars, or doing other routine activities
      • Pain in fingers and toes
  • Effects on the bladder. These may include:
      • Difficult or painful urination
      • The need to urinate frequently, often passing only small amounts of urine
      • An urgent need to urinate
      • Blood in the urine
  • lung tissue changes (rare occurrence with high amounts of this drug). These changes may not be permanent, and your lung tissue may return to normal. Sometimes these changes may not be seen for many years. You may develop a cough or have difficulty catching your breath.
  • changes in liver enzymes. Blood tests will be used to check your liver enzymes as needed.
  • sexual and reproductive concerns. In men and women, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect the ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. In men, this drug may interfere with the ability to make sperm, but it should not change the ability to have sexual relations. In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while receiving this drug. However, even if you do not have a menstrual period, it is still possible to become pregnant. Women may also experience signs of menopause, such as vaginal dryness or itching.
      • This drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child. Effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
      • Genetic counseling is available for you to discuss the effect of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. A genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus if exposure to this medication during pregnancy has occurred.

Treating side effects

  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gently brushing your teeth with a very soft toothbrush and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. This should be done 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.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about obtaining a wig before you experience a lot of hair loss.
  • Do not put anything on your rash, unless you ask your doctor or nurse. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Be careful to avoid injury when cooking, walking, or handling sharp objects and hot liquids.
  • 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 chlorambucil with any food. This drug may interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all of the medications 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 higher
  • 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
  • Cough
  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures


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

  • Difficult or painful urination
  • Increase in the number of times you urinate, often passing only small amounts of urine
  • Urgent need to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Painful mouth or throat, or discomfort when eating or drinking
  • Diarrhea of five to six stools in one day or diarrhea with weakness or light-headedness
  • Nausea unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Pain in your arms or legs unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Headache unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Numbness, tingling, or decreased sensation in fingers and toes
  • Difficulty walking or changes in the way you walk
  • Clumsiness buttoning clothes, opening jars, or doing other routine activities
  • Muscle weakness
  • Persistent loss of appetite or rapid weight loss (5 pounds in one week)
  • Extreme fatigue that interferes with normal

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