Mitomycin C | Cancer Research UK
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What mitomycin C is

Mitomycin C is a chemotherapy drug. It is also called Mitomycin-C Kyowa. It is used on its own or in combination with other treatments for some types of cancer, including

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancers that have spread
  • Cancer of the neck of the womb (cervix)
  • Stomach cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Cancer of the food pipe (oesophageal cancer)

It is sometimes used to treat bowel cancer, head and neck cancers, skin cancer and prostate cancer.

You may have it for other types of cancer as part of clinical trials.


How mitomycin C works

Mitomycin C works by sticking the cancer cell’s DNA (the cell’s genetic code) together so that it can't come apart again. The cell can't divide so the cancer cannot grow.


How you have mitomycin C

Mitomycin C is a purple liquid. You have it into your bloodstream (intravenously). You can have it through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment. Or you may have it through a central line, a portacath or a PICC line. These are long, plastic tubes that give the drugs directly into a large vein in your chest. The tube can stay in place throughout the whole course of treatment.

You usually have chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment. The treatment plan for mitomycin C depends on which cancer you have. You can find out about how doctors plan chemotherapy.

For early stage bladder cancer you may have mitomycin C into your bladder through a tube called a catheter. You can find information about treatment into the bladder

For liver cancer you may have mitomycin into the artery leading to the liver. Doctors call this intra arterial chemotherapy or intrahepatic chemotherapy.

The side effects of mitomycin C given into the bloodstream (IV mitomycin) are listed below. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect or click on search at the top of the page. If there is no link you can find information in the cancer drugs side effects section


Common side effects of IV mitomycin C

More than 10 in every 100 people who have mitomycin C into their bloodstream have one or more of the side effects listed below.

  • An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or you may feel cold and shivery. If you have a severe infection this can be life threatening. Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these effects or if your temperature goes above 38°C. You will have regular blood tests to check your blood cell levels
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) during and after treatment – most people find their energy levels are back to normal from 6 months to a year after their treatment ends
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling or being sick may happen a few hours after each treatment and last for about 3 days. It is generally well controlled with anti sickness injections and tablets. If you are still feeling or being sick tell your doctor or nurse
  • Weight loss
  • Bruising more easily due to a drop in platelets – you may have nosebleeds, bleeding gums after brushing your teeth, or lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechia)
  • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion

Occasional side effects of IV mitomycin

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these.

  • Inflammation around the drip siteif you notice any signs of redness, swelling or leaking at your drip site, tell your chemotherapy nurse straight away
  • A sore mouth and mouth ulcers
  • Coughing, breathlessness and a high temperature (fever) – tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have this
  • High blood pressure or skin flushing
  • A temporary effect on the liver – your doctor or nurse will check your liver with blood tests
  • Your kidneys may be affected and will be checked with blood tests before each treatment
  • A skin rash, which may be itchy
  • Your nails may become darker
  • Diarrhoea – drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor or nurse if it is severe or lasts more than a couple of days as you could get dehydrated
  • Constipation – your doctor or nurse can give you laxatives
  • Hair thinning
  • Women may stop having periods (amenorrhoea) but this may only be temporary
  • Loss of fertility – you may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after this treatment. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment

Rare side effects of IV mitomycin

Very rarely mitomycin C into a vein may cause the following effects but they occur in less than 1 in 100 people.

  • Generalised weakness – if you have this effect don't drive or operate machinery
  • An allergic reaction – let your nurse know straight away if you feel hot or have any skin rashes, itching, hot flushes, sweating, breathlessness, or dizziness
  • An increased risk of developing acute leukaemia or myelodysplastic syndrome when mitomycin C is combined with other cancer treatment drugs

Mitomycin C into the bladder

If you have mitomycin C into your bladder, it only causes side effects in the area of the bladder. The bladder can feel inflamed and sore after the treatment, as though you have cystitis. You may feel that you need to pass urine more often than usual. There is a very small risk of damage to the bladder wall or a hole in the bladder wall. 

Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have any of the following effects

  • Severe abdominal (tummy) pain
  • Problems passing urine or can't pass it
  • Blood in your urine

You should wash your hands thoroughly after passing urine for a couple of days after having this treatment. If the urine touches your skin, the mitomycin C may cause a rash.


Mitomycin C into the liver

Mitomycin C into the main artery leading to the liver tends to cause very few side effects. But it may cause skin changes such as pain, redness, rashes, blisters, and ulcers. It may lead to skin or muscle damage. In some people this drug can cause blood clots in the liver. 

If the drug leaks into the tissues around the artery it may cause damage to the wall of the stomach or small bowel

Your treatment team will monitor you closely while you have this treatment.


Important points to remember

You may have a few of the side effects mentioned on this page. They may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get worse through your course of treatment. Or you may have more side effects as the course goes on. This depends on

  • How many times you've had the drug before
  • Your general health
  • The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
  • Other drugs you are having

Coping with side effects

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.

Other medicines

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


Do not breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in the breast milk.


Immunisations and chemotherapy

You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having chemotherapy or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your chemotherapy. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.

It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.


More information about mitomycin C

This page does not list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at

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Updated: 2 January 2015