Hydroxyurea (Generic Name)

Other Names: Hydrea®

Hydroxyurea is used to treat cancer. This drug is given orally.

Possible Side Effects

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow depression usually occurs within a week after the drug is given and may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding. With high doses, these side effects occur sooner.
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that are painful.
  • Nausea and vomiting. These symptoms may occur within several hours after you receive the drug.
  • Hair loss. Most patients experience scalp and body hair loss. You may notice hair thinning several days after receiving this drug. Usually hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.
  • Diarrhea that may last for several days
  • Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may occur. 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. Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.
    • This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
    • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effect 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
  • Changes in kidney function. This drug may affect how your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked as needed. This side effect is rare.
  • Raised, red rash on arms, legs, back, or chest
  • Decreased appetite

Treating Side Effects

  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gently brushing with a very soft tooth brush 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.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication that is available to help prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting.
  • Talk to your doctor or nurse about obtaining a wig before you experience hair loss.
  • Do not put anything on your rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment.
  • Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.
  • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children. Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
  • Dizziness

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

  • Diarrhea of four or more stools in one day or diarrhea associated with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Headache unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Rash that is bothersome
  • Persistent loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in one week

Food and Drug Interactions

Take hydroxyurea one hour before or two hours after a meal. Take pills with a small, starchy snack like a cracker to decrease stomach upset. This drug may interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist all the medications that you are currently taking.

When to Call the Doctor

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

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of ankles
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Dizziness

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

  • Diarrhea of four or more stools in one day or diarrhea associated with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Nausea unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Headache unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Rash that is bothersome
  • Persistent loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in one week

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