Find My Cancer Drug

A B C D E F G H I
I J K L M N O P Q
Q R S T V X Y Z #


Capecitabine (Xeloda®)

OncoLink
Last Modified: August 6, 2015

Pronounced: cap-eh-SITE-ah-bean

Classification: Antimetabolite

About Capecitabine

Capecitabine works by inhibiting DNA synthesis and replication. Without proper DNA, cancerous cells cannot grow and divide, and thus die.

How to Take Capecitabine

Capecitabine is taken by mouth, in pill form, within 30 minutes after a meal. It is typically taken twice a day and the morning and evening doses may be different amounts. Swallow the pills whole (do not crush, chew or break), with water.

Certain medications can interfere with capecitabine, including warfarin (Coumadin®), phenytoin, leucovorin and folate.  There is an increased risk of bleeding if you take Coumadin, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anit-inflammatory drugs), and platelet inhibitors, such as Plavix. Patients taking Coumadin should have their INR monitored more frequently while receiving capecitabine. Make sure your provider is aware of all the medications, vitamins and supplements you are taking before you begin taking capecitabine.

Storage and Handling

Store your medication in the original, labeled container at room temperature and in a dry location (unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider or pharmacist). This medication should not be stored in a pillbox. Keep containers out of reach of children and pets.

If a caregiver prepares your dose for you, they should consider wearing gloves or pour the pills directly from their container into the cap, a small cup, or directly into your hand. They should avoid touching the pills. They should always wash their hands before and after giving you the medication. Pregnant or nursing women should not prepare the dose for you. Ask your oncology team where to return any unused medication for disposal. Do not flush down the toilet or throw in the trash.

Where do I get this medication?

Depending on your pharmacy coverage, this medication may be available at your local retail pharmacy or through a specialty pharmacy.  Your oncology team will work with your prescription drug plan to identify the appropriate supplier for this medication.

Insurance Information

This medication may be covered under your prescription drug plan.  Depending on your diagnosis and fund availability, co-pay assistance from private foundations may be available.  Your care team can assist in identifying and referring you to these resources.

This medication is covered under Medicare part B for Medicare recipients.  Make sure your pharmacist knows to process this prescription through your Medicare part B and NOT Part D.

Possible Side Effects

There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of capecitabine. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:

Diarrhea

This medication can cause diarrhea that can be severe and lead to serious dehydration. Notify your oncology team if you develop diarrhea or if the number of bowel movements you have in a day increases by 4 or more. Your oncology team can recommend medications to relieve diarrhea, and tell you how to take them, which is often different than the directions on the package.

Also, try eating low-fiber, bland foods, such as white rice and boiled or baked chicken. Avoid raw fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, cereals and seeds. Soluble fiber is found in some foods and absorbs fluid, which can help relieve diarrhea. Foods high in soluble fiber include: applesauce, bananas (ripe), canned fruit, orange sections, boiled potatoes, white rice, products made with white flour, oatmeal, cream of rice, cream of wheat, and farina. Drink 8-10 glasses on non-alcoholic, un-caffeinated fluid a day to prevent dehydration.

Nausea and/or Vomiting

Talk to your doctor or nurse so they can prescribe medications to help you manage nausea and vomiting. In addition, dietary changes may help. Avoid things that may worsen the symptoms, such as heavy or greasy/fatty, spicy or acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, oranges). Try antacids, (e.g. milk of magnesia, calcium tablets such as Tums), saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms.

Call your doctor or nurse if you are unable to keep fluids down for more than 12 hours or if you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time.

Heart Problems

This medication can cause heart attack, chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, ECG changes and cardiomyopathy. These more often occur in patients with a prior history of heart disease. Notify your healthcare provider right away or go to the emergency room if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, feel abnormal heartbeats, feel dizzy or faint, have sudden weight gain or swelling in the ankles or legs.

Hand Foot Syndrome

Hand and foot syndrome (HFS) is a skin reaction that appears on the palms of the hands and/or the soles of the feet as a result of certain chemotherapy agents being absorbed by the skin cells. HFS can begin as a mild tingling, numbness, pins-and-needles feeling, or pain or swelling of the hands and/or feet. This can then progress to painful swelling, blistering or peeling skin that can interfere with your ability to do normal activities. Be sure to let your oncology team know right away if you notice these symptoms, as they may need to adjust the chemotherapy dose or take a break to allow the skin to heal. Some tips to help prevent HFS include:

  • Avoid tight shoes or socks.
  • Avoid activities that put pressure on the palms or soles for 1 week after treatment.
  • Apply moisturizer liberally and often.
  • Avoid hot water for baths and showers.

Liver Toxicity

This medication can cause liver toxicity, which your doctor may monitor for using blood tests called liver function tests. If you develop elevations in your liver function tests, your healthcare provider may need to lower your dose or stop the medication. Notify your healthcare provider if you notice yellowing of the skin or eyes, your urine appears dark or brown or pain in your abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.

Fatigue

Fatigue is very common during cancer treatment and is an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion that is not usually relieved by rest. While on cancer treatment, and for a period after, you may need to adjust your schedule to manage fatigue. Plan times to rest during the day and conserve energy for more important activities. Exercise can help combat fatigue; a simple daily walk with a friend can help.  Talk to your healthcare team for helpful tips on dealing with this side effect.

Mouth Ulcers (Sores)

Certain cancer treatments can cause sores or soreness in your mouth and/or throat. Notify your doctor or nurse if your mouth, tongue, inside of your cheek or throat becomes white, ulcerated or painful. Performing regular mouth care can help prevent or manage mouth sores. If mouth sores become painful, your doctor or nurse can recommend a pain reliever.

  • Brush with a soft-bristle toothbrush or cotton swab twice a day.
  • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol. A baking soda and/or salt warm water mouth rinse (2 level teaspoons of baking soda or 1 level teaspoon salt in an eight ounce glass of warm water) is recommended 4 times daily.
  • If your mouth becomes dry, eat moist foods, drink plenty of fluids (6-8 glasses), and suck on sugarless hard candy.
  • Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco, drinking alcoholic beverages and citrus juice

Skin Reactions

This medication can cause serious skin reactions. Notify your oncology team right away if you develop a skin rash, blisters and/or peeling of your skin.

Low White Blood Cell Count (Leukopenia or Neutropenia)

White blood cells (WBC) are important for fighting infection. While receiving treatment, your WBC count can drop, putting you at a higher risk of getting an infection. You should let your doctor or nurse know right away if you have a fever (temperature greater than 100.4), sore throat or cold, shortness of breath, cough, burning with urination, or a sore that doesn't heal.

Tips to preventing infection:

  • Washing hands, both yours and your visitors, is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Avoid large crowds and people who are sick (i.e.: those who have a cold, fever or cough or live with someone with these symptoms).
  • When working in your yard, wear protective clothing including long pants and gloves.
  • Do not handle pet waste.
  • Keep all cuts or scratches clean.
  • Shower or bath daily and perform frequent mouth care.
  • Do not cut cuticles or ingrown nails. You may wear nail polish, but not fake nails.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse before scheduling dental appointments or procedures.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse before you, or someone you live with, has any vaccinations.

Low Red Blood Cell Count (Anemia)

Your red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in your body. When the red cell count is low, you may feel tired or weak. You should let your doctor or nurse know if you experience any shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or pain in your chest. If the count gets too low, you may receive a blood transfusion.

Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)

Platelets help your blood clot, so when the count is low you are at a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any excess bruising or bleeding, including nose bleeds, bleeding gums or blood in your urine or stool. If the platelet count becomes too low, you may receive a transfusion of platelets.

  • Do not use a razor (an electric razor is fine).
  • Avoid contact sports and activities that can result in injury or bleeding.
  • Do not take aspirin (salicylic acid), non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as Motrin®, Aleve®, Advil®, etc. as these can all increase the risk of bleeding. Unless your healthcare team tells you otherwise, you may take acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Do not floss or use toothpicks and use a soft-bristle toothbrush to brush your teeth.

Reproductive Concerns

Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment.  If your menstrual cycle stops or you believe you are not producing sperm, you could still be fertile and conceive.  Women should not breastfeed while taking capecitabine.

 

If you have questions or concerns about the medication that you have been prescribed, please contact your healthcare team. OncoLink is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through OncoLink should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

Keywords

Click on any of these terms for more related articles

Blogs

Putting Your Specialty Pharmacy to Work for You
by Christina Bach, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
August 11, 2014

Is Ayurveda the Answer to Women’s Health Issues?
by The 4Wholeness Team
September 01, 2015