Irinotecan Hydrochloride (Generic Name)

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

About this drug

Irinotecan hydrochloride is used to treat cancer. This drug is given in the vein (IV). 

Possible side effects (more common)

  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding.
  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting). These symptoms may happen within a few hours or many hours after your treatment and may last up to 24 hours. Medicines are available to stop or lessen these side effects.
  • Hair loss: Most often hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is done.

Possible side effects (less common)

  • Skin and tissue irritation. You may have redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site.
  • Weakness
  • Trouble Breathing
  • Decreased Appetite (decreased hunger)

Treating side effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids each day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen the loose bowel movements.
  • Talk with your nurse about getting 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 getting chemotherapy can learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.
  • Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment. Talk with your doctor or nurse about options for birth control.
  • Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during
    sexual relations.

Food and drug interactions

There are no known interactions of irinotecan hydrochloride with food. This drug may interact with other medicines.

Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might 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 help.

When to call the doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 5 or 6 times a day or loose bowel movements with weakness or feeling lightheaded
  • Temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Trouble breathing or feeling short of breath
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than three times in one day
  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site
  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or if you pass out

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

  • Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Extreme tiredness that interferes with normal activities

Sexual problems and reproduction concerns

  • Infertility warning: Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may happen. In both men and women, this drug may affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your treatment. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking. 
    • 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 getting this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.
    • Women may go through signs of menopause (change of life) like vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations. 
    • Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy.
  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
  • Breast feeding warning: Women should not breast feed during treatment because this drug could enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

 

Revised July 2014

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