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Mitomycin C

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This page tells you about a chemotherapy drug called mitomycin C and its possible side effects. There is information about


What mitomycin C is

Mitomycin C is a chemotherapy drug. It is also called Mitomycin-C Kyowa. It works by sticking the cancer cell’s DNA (the cell’s genetic code) together so that it can't come apart again. The cell cannot divide so the cancer cannot grow. Mitomycin C is used on its own or in combination with other treatments for some types of cancer, including

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

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


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. You have the tube put in just before your course of treatment starts and it stays in place as long as you need it.

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 more about how doctors plan chemotherapy in our chemotherapy section.

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 in our bladder cancer section. 

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 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 more information in the cancer drugs side effects section


Common side effects

If you have mitomycin C into your bladder, it causes very few side effects. 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. You should wash your hands thoroughly after passing urine when you've had this treatment. If the urine touches your skin, the mitomycin C may cause a rash.

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, sore throat, pain passing urine or feel cold and shivery. This can be life threatening. Contact your doctor if you have any of these effects. Your doctor will check your blood cell levels regularly.
  • Tiredness (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
  • 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 so if you are still feeling or being sick tell your doctor or nurse
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mitomycin C may harm a developing baby – it is not advisable to become pregnant or father a child whilst taking this drug. Discuss contraception with your doctor or nurse before having the treatment if there is any chance you or your partner could become pregnant
  • Breastfeeding is not advisable during this treatment because the drug may come through in the breast milk

Occasional side effects

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

  • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion
  • 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)
  • Inflammation around the drip site – if you notice any signs of redness, swelling or leaking at your drip site, tell your chemotherapy nurse immediately
  • 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
  • Loss of fertility – you may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. It is important to talk to your doctor about your fertility before starting treatment if having a baby is important to you
  • Women may stop having periods (amenorrhoea) but this may only be temporary

Rare side effects

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 do not drive or operate machinery
  • An allergic reaction – let your nurse know if you feel hot or have any skin rashes, itching, dizziness, headaches, shivering, breathlessness, anxiety, flushing of the face, or a sudden need to pass urine
  • An increased risk of developing acute leukaemia or myelodysplastic syndrome when mitomycin C is combined with other cancer treatment drugs

When you have mitomycin C into the bladder there is a very small risk of damage to the bladder wall or a hole in the bladder wall. Tell your doctor or nurse immediately if you have severe abdominal (tummy) pain, if you have problems passing urine or can't pass it and if you have blood in your urine. 

When you have mitomycin C into the main artery leading to the liver, it may cause skin changes. These include  pain, redness, rashes, blisters, and ulcers, and may lead to skin or muscle damage. If the drug leaks into the tissues around the artery it may cause a stomach or duodenal ulcer, bleeding, or hole in the wall of the stomach or bowel. Your treatment team will monitor you closely while you have this treatment.


Important points to remember

The side effects above may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment, or more side effects may develop 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

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

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


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: 14 February 2013