Chemotherapy drugs for anal cancer | Cancer Research UK
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Chemotherapy drugs for anal cancer

The drugs most commonly used for anal cancer are fluorouracil (5FU) and mitomycin C. Common side effects of chemotherapy for anal cancer are

  • A fall in the number of blood cells
  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • A sore mouth and mouth ulcers
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Feeling tired and run down

You usually have chemotherapy into your bloodstream (intravenously) through a drip in your arm.

Side effects of chemotherapy for anal cancer

Different chemotherapy drugs affect people in different ways. Some people have few side effects while others have more. It is important to tell your doctor or chemotherapy nurse about any side effects you have.

Always talk to your doctor before taking any dietary supplements or herbal medicines. These may interact with your chemotherapy.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating anal cancer section.

 

 

Chemotherapy drugs for anal cancer

The drugs most commonly used for anal cancer are fluorouracil (5FU) and mitomycin C

Doctors sometimes also use

You usually have 5FU with mitomycin or cisplatin. You have chemotherapy into your bloodstream (intravenously) through a drip in your arm. You can also have it through a central line.

Sometimes doctors give a tablet form of 5FU chemotherapy called capecitabine. This is instead of giving it into a vein. Taking tablets means that you can have most of your treatment at home. 

 

Side effects of anal cancer chemotherapy

Drugs affect people in different ways. Not everyone will have the same side effects with the same drug. Some people have few side effects while others have more. It is not possible to tell exactly how you will react until you have had a particular drug.

Some side effects are quite common with many chemotherapy drugs. These include

Not all these side effects happen with every drug used for anal cancer. 

Read more about the side effects of chemotherapy and how to deal with them.

You have regular blood tests during your treatment to make sure your blood cells aren’t too low. A low white blood cell count means you are more at risk of picking up infections. A low red blood cell count causes anaemia, with tiredness and breathlessness.

Remember to contact your doctor or chemotherapy nurse straight away if you think you have an infection. If you have a temperature of 38 degrees C or more, it is important to let the hospital know. You might need antibiotics.

The side effects can be different when you have chemotherapy and radiotherapy together. 

Read more about the side effects of chemoradiotherapy.

 

Taking part in clinical trials

Your specialist might ask you to take part in a clinical trial. Researchers want to know

  • which treatments work best
  • what are the side effects of treatment
  • if they can give treatments in different ways, such as tablets

You can find trials for anal cancer on our clinical trials database.

 

Supplements and chemotherapy

Scientists don't yet know how much nutritional or herbal supplements interfere with chemotherapy. Some could be harmful. It is important to let your doctors know if you take any supplements. Also let them know if an alternative or complementary therapy practitioner prescribes therapies for you.

Some studies that say fish oil makes chemotherapy work less well. Tell your doctor if you are taking fish oil or thinking of doing so.

Also tell them about any other medicines you take while you are having chemotherapy.

Read more about the safety of herbal, vitamin and diet supplements.

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Updated: 7 June 2016