Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Anemia: This medication may cause low levels of red blood cells. If you experience symptoms of reduced red blood cell count (anemia) such as shortness of breath, feeling unusually tired or pale skin, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of specific types of blood cells, including red blood cells, in your blood.
Bleeding: Irinotecan may cause a reduced number of platelets in the blood, which can make it difficult to stop cuts from bleeding. If you notice any signs of bleeding, such as frequent nosebleeds, unexplained bruising, or black and tarry stools, notify your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will order routine blood tests to make sure potential problems are caught early.
Blood clots: This medication may increase the chance of blood clot formation, causing reduction of blood flow to organs or the extremities.
If you experience symptoms such as sharp pain and swelling in the leg, difficulty breathing, chest pain, blurred vision, or difficulty speaking, contact your doctor immediately.
Diabetes: This medication may cause an increase in blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes, your doctor should closely monitor your condition while you are taking irinotecan. Discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
Diarrhea: Diarrhea occurring more than 24 hours after treatment is a common side effect. Your doctor may recommend that you take oral (by mouth) loperamide if diarrhea occurs. It is important that diarrhea be treated promptly and aggressively if it occurs. If you are taking taking loperamide as directed by your doctor and diarrhea continues for more than 48 hours, get medical attention immediately. It is also important that you drink plenty of fluids if diarrhea occurs.
Drowsiness/reduced alertness : Irinotecan can cause fatigue, dizziness or vision changes. Avoid activities such as driving or operating machinery if the medication affects you in this way.
Infection: As well as killing cancer cells, this medication can reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). If possible, avoid contact with people with contagious infections. Tell your doctor if you begin to notice signs of an infection, such as fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness. Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of specific types of blood cells in your blood.
Lung inflammation: Rarely, lung inflammation (interstitial lung disease), causing difficulty breathing has occurred in some people taking this medication. This complication can be serious and sometimes fatal. If you experience new or worsening shortness of breath or cough (with or without fever) at any time while you are being treated with irinotecan contact your doctor immediately.
Pregnancy: Irinotecan may cause birth defects if either the mother or the father is using irinotecan at the time of conception, or if it is taken during pregnancy. Both partners should use a reliable form of birth control while taking this medication. If you become pregnant while using irinotecan, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: It is not known if irinotecan passes into breast milk. Women should not breast-feed while using irinotecan due to the risk of harm to the infant.
Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children.
Seniors: There is an increased risk of diarrhea for people over the age of 65. Discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.