Gemcitabine is an anti-cancer chemotherapy drug and is classified as an antimetabolite. Gemcitabine is used to treat pancreas cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer, soft-tissue sarcoma, and metastatic breast cancer.Gemcitabine is given as an injection in a vein over a period of 30 minutes. Pancreatic cancer patients are given gemcitabine once a week for up to 7 weeks to start, then a week without treatment. After that, the dose is once a week for 3 weeks followed by a week off. When given for breast or ovarian cancer, it's usually once a week for 2 weeks, then 1 week off. For lung cancer or other cancer patients, it usually is given weekly for 3 weeks with 1 week off. The dose depends on your size, your blood counts, how well you did on the last cycle of treatment, and the cancer being treated.
This drug can lower your white blood cell count, especially in the weeks after the drug is given. This can increase your chance of getting an infection. Be sure to let your doctor or nurse know right away if you have any signs of infection, such as fever (100.5° or higher), chills, pain when passing urine, a new cough, or bringing up sputum.
This drug may lower your platelet count in the weeks after it is given, which can increase your risk of bleeding. Speak with your doctor before taking any drugs or supplements that might affect your body's ability to stop bleeding, such as or containing medicines, warfarin (Coumadin), or vitamin E. Tell your doctor right away if you have unusual bruising, or bleeding such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, or black, tarry stools.
This drug may lower your red blood cell count. If this occurs, it is usually a few weeks after starting treatment. A low red blood cell count (known as anemia) can cause shortness of breath, or make you to feel weak or tired all the time. Your doctor may give you medicines to help prevent or treat this condition, or you may need to get blood transfusions.
Do not get any immunizations (vaccines), either during or after treatment with this drug, without your doctor's OK. Gemcitabine may affect your immune system. This could make vaccinations ineffective, or could even lead to serious infections if you get a live virus vaccine during or soon after treatment. Try to avoid contact with people who have recently received a live virus vaccine, such as the oral polio vaccine or smallpox vaccine. Check with your doctor about this.
Avoid pregnancy during and for at least a few months after treatment, since exposure to this drug may harm the fetus. Talk with your doctor about this.