Find out what capecitabine is, how you have it and other important information about having capecitabine.
Capecitabine is a chemotherapy drug and is also known by its brand name Xeloda.
It is a treatment for many different types of cancer.
How it works
Capecitabine is a type of chemotherapy called an anti metabolite. The body changes capecitabine into a common chemotherapy drug called fluorouracil. It stops cells making and repairing DNA. Cancer cells need to make and repair DNA so they can grow and multiply.
How you have it
Capecitabine is a tablet you take twice a day, morning and evening. You might have two different strengths of tablets to make up the correct dose.
Take the tablets up to 30 minutes after a meal, with plenty of water.
Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have difficulty swallowing.
Taking your tablets
You must take tablets according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.
Whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream.
You should take the right dose, not more or less.
Never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.
When you have treatment
You might have capecitabine as a course of several cycles of treatment. Each cycle is usually over 3 weeks.
For example, you may take capecitabine every day for 2 weeks. Then have a week with no treatment. Then you start the cycle again.
Or you may take capecitabine every day for a few months.
Your doctor will tell you:
- what dose of capecitabine you need to take
- when to take it
- how long to take it for
Tests during treatment
You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.
Pregnancy and contraception
This treatment might 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.
Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
This drug contains lactose (milk sugar). If you have an intolerance to lactose, contact your doctor before taking this medicine.
Around 5 out of 100 people (5%) have low levels of an enzyme called DPD in their bodies. A lack of DPD can mean you’re more likely to have severe side effects from capecitabine or fluorouracil. It might take you a bit longer to recover from the chemotherapy.
Low DPD levels don’t cause symptoms so you won’t know if you have a deficiency. Some people have severe side effects from capecitabine or fluorouracil even if they don't have low DPD levels. Contact your doctor or nurse if your side effects are severe.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and shingles vaccine (Zostavax).
- have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- have the flu vaccine
- be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections
Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.
You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.
More information about this treatment
We haven't listed all the very rare side effects of this treatment. For further information see the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have that isn’t listed here to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.
iWantGreatCare lets patients leave feedback on their experience of taking a particular drug. The feedback is from individual patients. It is not information, or specialist medical advice, from Cancer Research UK.