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Irinotecan

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
irinotecan Camptosar

How It Works

Irinotecan is an antitumor drug that interferes with how cancer cells multiply. The dose is based on your body size. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule for using this drug. Irinotecan is an intravenous (IV) drug.

Why It Is Used

Irinotecan is used to treat cancer of the cervix, colon, or rectum. It may also be used to treat non–small-cell lung cancer.

How Well It Works

Irinotecan is an effective antitumor drug for many people. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this drug slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body. Irinotecan is often used in combination with other chemotherapy drugs, making the other drugs more effective than they are by themselves.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Upset stomach and indigestion.
  • Fever.
  • Infections.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Irinotecan may cause kidney or liver problems and low blood counts. Your doctor will check and closely watch you for these problems and monitor your blood counts.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Libutti SK, et al. (2011). Cancer of the colon. In VT DeVita Jr. et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 9th ed., pp. 1084–1126. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kenneth Bark, MD - Surgery, Colon and Rectal
Last Revised September 5, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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