What Fluorouracil is and what it is used for?
- Fluorouracil belongs to a group of drugs called antimetabolites. This medicine inhibits thymidylate synthase that is essential for the formation of DNA and RNA. This stops the growth of cancer cells, causing the cells to die.
- Fluorouracil can be given alone or in combination with other cancer medicines to treat many cancers, including colon and rectal cancer, breast cancer, head and neck cancer, neuroendocrine tumors, cervical cancer, bladder cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreas cancer, and stomach cancer.
How Fluorouracil is given?
- The infusion time is dependent on the treatment plan. It may be given over several hours or a few days in continuous infusion.
What should I know while receiving Fluorouracil?
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months after the treatment ends.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- You will have regular blood tests to check that you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive fluorouracil. The timing and dosing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or side effects.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of fluorouracil. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially kidney and liver problems, or have a history of radiation therapy.
- There are many drugs may affect how fluorouracil works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Common side effects
- Low white blood cell count
You may have a higher risk of getting infections. Try to stay away from crowds and wash hands often. Tell your doctor right away if you have repeated fevers, coughing, stuffy nose, a painful urination or wound that becomes red and swollen.
- Low red blood cell count
You may look pale and get tired more easily. Let your doctor know if you experience any difficulty breathing or dizziness when changing positions.
- Low platelet count
You may have a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor know if you find red or purple dots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, or any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
- Mouth sore
Your doctor may give you medicines that help you feel better. You can reduce the chance of having mouth sores by sucking on ice cubes before, during, and after the infusion. Good mouth care also help prevent mouth sores.
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve diarrhea.
- Nausea or vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Eye irritation
Talk to your doctor if the condition bothers you. Medicines can be given that help you feel better.
- Taste alteration
Foods may taste differently or you may have a metallic taste in the mouth. Taste may return slowly after the treatment has ended.
Less common side effects
- Hair loss
It may begin 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. Your hair will usually grow back after treatment has finished.
- Skin reactions
Symptoms include darkening of the skin, itching, and rash. Tell your doctor about any skin changes that you have. Your doctor can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- Hand-foot syndrome
Your may have redness, swelling, and pain on the palms of hands and the soles of feet. Sometimes peeling skin or blisters may occur. To relieve the symptoms of hand-foot syndrome, you can use ice packs to cool your hands and feet for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Avoid long exposure of hands and feet to hot water and activities that cause rubbing or pressure on your skin. Try to keep your hands and feet moist by using emollients. Symptoms usually go away in 7 to 10 days after treatment is stopped.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day can help make your recovery a smoother process.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarettes during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.
- Your skin may more sensitive to sunlight and may burn more easily during treatment. You should stay out of the sun. If you must go out in the sun, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen.