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Introduction Show [+]Hide [-]

This information sheet is offered as a guide to you and your family. Your treatment will be fully explained by your doctor or nurse, who will be happy to answer any questions.

Your Treatment: Your doctor has prescribed for you a chemotherapy drug known as: -

Cytarabine
This drug is given as an intravenous infusion over 4 hours given via a portable pump into your Hickman at 12 hourly intervals on days 1, 3 and 5.

Common side effectsShow [+]Hide [-]

As each patient is an individual your experience will be different to other patients receiving chemotherapy. Common side effects that you may experience during treatment are:

• Nausea and vomiting (sickness)
The severity of any nausea and vomiting will vary from person to person. An anti-sickness injection will be given before your chemotherapy. You will also be given some anti-sickness tablets to take home. If you continue to feel sick, contact the day unit (telephone number at the end of this leaflet) or your GP as your anti-sickness medication may need to be changed or increased.

• Sore Mouth
Following treatment you may develop a sore mouth and may notice mouth ulcers. Avoid very hot spicy foods. To help prevent oral infections brush your teeth at least twice a day and drink plenty of fluids. To prevent any mouth ulcers becoming infected you should use an anti-bacterial mouthwash. Ask your doctor or nurse to recommend one that is suitable.

• Bone Marrow Suppression
Your bone marrow is where your blood cells are made (these are the red cells, white cells, and platelets) to replace those naturally worn out by the body. Chemotherapy interferes with this process and the number of the cells in your blood can become lower than normal. This means following your treatment you could become:

• Prone to infection: White cells fight infection, a low white cell count can make you prone to infection. You may develop a sore throat, cough, high temperature, shivering or other symptoms, which may be due to infection. A normal temperature is between 36°C and 37°C. A raised temperature is:

Above 38°C (100.4°) at any time or
Above 37.5°C (99.5°F) at any two readings taken an hour apart.
Please contact Ward 6A or 8 immediately if you develop any symptoms.

• Anaemic: Red cells carry oxygen around your body, a shortage of these cells is called anaemia. You may feel dizzy, out of breath or unusually tired and you may look pale.

• Prone to bleeding: Platelets help to clot your blood and slow down bleeding. A low platelet count may make you prone to bleeding, this usually takes the form of nose-bleeds, bruising or bleeding gums.

You will have a routine blood test before each treatment to monitor the effects of the chemotherapy. Please contact Ward 6A or Ward 8 if you experience any of these symptoms.

• Sex, pregnancy and family planning
If you are having chemotherapy it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have sex, but you may not feel like it. If there is a chance of pregnancy, you must use effective contraception while on chemotherapy. If you suspect that you or your partner may be pregnant please tell your doctor immediately. Chemotherapy may affect your ability to have children in the future – please discuss this with your doctor or chemotherapy nurse before treatment.

• Fatigue
Many people feel tired and have low energy levels whilst undergoing chemotherapy. There is very little you can do to avoid this but research has shown that patients who suffer fatigue need to take gentle exercise and rest often. This feeling of fatigue is quite normal and energy levels will begin to improve once treatment is completed.

• Visual Disturbances
Cytarabine can cause conjunctivitis in some cases. To prevent this being a problem for you, you will be given eye drops to take four times a day for the duration of your chemotherapy and for five days after treatment.

• Extravasation
The drugs you are about to receive are known as “cytotoxic “ or “chemotherapy” drugs. Most of these drugs need to be administered directly into the blood stream through a cannula (a plastic needle inserted directly into a vein.) In most cases it should not cause pain as it is given and often the only sensation you may experience is a “coldness “ running up your arm. However if the drip becomes dislodged from the vein an “extravasation” could occur with chemotherapy leaking outside the vein, causing damage to the surrounding tissues. This happens very rarely. Indications of this are pain, redness or swelling around the cannula site. Your nurse will be looking for any signs of extravasation while your chemotherapy is in progress but it is essential that you inform your nurse if problems arise. Very occasionally patients may notice pain and discomfort around the area only after their chemotherapy has been completed. This also must be reported immediately so that appropriate treatment may be prescribed.

After TreatmentShow [+]Hide [-]

Please note that alcohol is best avoided for 48 hours after completing each course of treatment.

Please remember side effects are usually temporary. If you experience any of them, discuss them with your doctor or nurse.

Contact numbers

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your treatment please contact:

  • Ward 6A Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 5.00pm, tel: 0191 282 5192
  • Ward 8 Available at all times, tel: 0191 282 5008

Further information

For further information regarding the drugs you receive, contact Macmillan Cancer Support.

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