Cytarabine is a drug used to treat certain types of cancer and leukaemia.
How is cytarabine given?
Cytarabine is usually given in one of three ways:
- By a slow injection or infusion into a vein (intravenously or IV) through a <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 170788 0 oLinkInternal cannula Intravenous (IV) cannula false /teenagers/about-your-condition/tests-and-treatments/intravenous-iv-cannula/ true false%>, <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 235133 0 oLinkInternal central venous catheter, Insertion of a central venous catheter false /medical-conditions/procedures-and-treatments/insertion-of-a-central-venous-catheter/ true false%> <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 191615 0 oLinkInternal implantable port Implantable ports false /teenagers/about-your-condition/tests-and-treatments/implantable-ports/ true false%>or <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 170818 0 oLinkInternal PICC line PICC false /teenagers/about-your-condition/tests-and-treatments/picc/ true false%>.
- <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 240685 0 oLinkInternal By injection under the skin (subcutaneously or ‘SC’) Giving subcutaneous injections false /medical-conditions/medicines-information/giving-subcutaneous-injections/ true false%>. Injections under the skin can often be quite distressing for your child. There are ways of coping with injections. Please speak to one of the nurses or play specialists.
- By injection through a needle which is inserted into one of the spaces between the bones in the lower back. This is known as a lumbar puncture. When drugs are given in this way, they are said to be given intrathecally.
What are the side effects of cytarabine?
The side effects listed below are more common when higher doses of cytarabine are given to your child as an inpatient. If your child is receiving lower doses of cytarabine as an outpatient the side effects are likely to be less frequent and less severe.
Nausea and vomiting
Anti-sickness drugs can be given to reduce or prevent these symptoms. Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child’s sickness is not controlled or persists.
These tend to occur six to twelve hours after the drug is given. Your child may have headaches and tiredness, aching joints and muscles, a high temperature and chills. Paracetamol may be given only if your child is not neutropenic to relieve these symptoms.
Bone marrow suppression
There will be a temporary reduction in how well your child’s bone marrow works. This means he or she may become anaemic, bruise or bleed more easily than usual, and have a higher risk of infection. Your child’s blood counts will be checked regularly to see how the bone marrow is working. Please tell your doctor if your child seems unusually tired, has bruising or bleeding, or any signs of infection, especially a high temperature.
This may occur when high doses of the drug are given. Eyedrops will be given to prevent this.
Mouth sores and ulcers
You will be given advice about appropriate mouthcare including a copy of the Mouthcare leaflet. If your child complains of having a sore mouth, please tell your doctor or nurse.
If your child has a sore mouth, they will often also have a sore gut. This can cause stomach pain and bloating as well as diarrhoea. Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child has symptoms which are not controlled or persist. It is important that your child drinks lots of fluids.
Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child develops a rash. They will advise you on the appropriate treatment to use.
Lethargy, sleepiness, dizziness and loss of balance
This is very rare and only occurs in high doses. If you notice these effects it is important to report them to your doctor immediately.
Your child may lose some or all of his or her hair or it may become thinner. This is temporary and the hair will grow back once the treatment is finished.
Cytarabine and interactions with other medicines
Some medicines can react with cytarabine, altering how well it works. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child any other medicine, including medicines on prescription from your family doctor (GP), medicines bought from a pharmacy (chemist) or any herbal or complementary medicines.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: May 2010
Ref: 2010F0635 © GOSH Trust May 2010
Compiled by the Pharmacy department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Please read this information in conjunction with any patient information leaflet provided by the manufacturer. However, please note that this information explains about the use of medicines in children and young people so may differ from the manufacturer’s information.
Each person reacts differently to medicines so your child will not necessarily suffer every side effect mentioned. This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.