Doxorubicin (Generic Name)

Other Names: Adriamycin®, hydroxyl daunorubicin, Adria

About This Drug

Doxorubicin is a drug used to treat cancer. This drug is given intravenously (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Usually hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.
  • Nausea and vomiting may occur while you are receiving this drug or up to 12 hours afterwards.
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow depression usually occurs five to seven days after the drug is given and may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that are painful.
  • Change in the color of your urine to pink or red. This color change will go away in one to two days.
  • Changes in the tissue of the heart. Some changes may occur that can cause a decreased ability of your heart to pump blood. Your heart function will be checked as needed.
  • Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). Photosensitivity means that you may become more sensitive to the effects of the sun, sun lamps, and tanning beds. Your eyes may water more, especially in bright light.
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Decreased appetite
  • Darkening of the skin or fingernails

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • This drug may cause skin and tissue irritation. This may include redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This occurs if the drug leaks out of the vein and into surrounding tissue.
  • In rare cases patients can develop secondary leukemia.

Sexual Problems and Reproduction Concerns

In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. 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 receiving this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period. 

Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.

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. Ask your doctor or nurse about effective methods of birth control.

Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred. 

Breast Feeding Warning:  Women are advised not to breast feed during treatment because this drug could enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.

Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated. 
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, nasal congestion and/or sinus symptoms.
  • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when you are outdoors even for a short time.
  • Cover up when you are out in the sun. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Keep your neck, chest, and back covered.
  • Avoid sun lamps, tanning booths, and tanning beds.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of regular, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after every meal and at bedtime.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat. If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Speak with your nurse about obtaining 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 undergoing chemotherapy learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and  skin and nail care.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of doxorubicin with food. This drug may interact with other medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medication and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly 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 advice.

Allergic Reaction

  • Serious allergic reactions including anaphylaxis are rare.  Tell your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms during the time you are receiving this drug:
         - Difficulty catching your breath
         - Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
         - Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations)
         - Dizziness or lightheadedness
         - Flushing/itching/rash/hives

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid or irregular heart beat
  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than twice in one day
  • Difficulty catching your breath or wheezing
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Difficulty breathing when lying flat
  • Fever of 100.5°F (38.3°C) or above; chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Rash or itching
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

 

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

  • Painful mouth or throat that makes it difficult to eat or drink
  • Persistent loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in one week

 

Revised November 2011


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