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Find out what procarbazine is, how you have it and other important information about taking procarbazine.

Procarbazine is a chemotherapy treatment for:

  • Hodgkin lymphomas in children and young people
  • some types of non Hodgkin lymphomas
  • some types of brain tumour

What chemotherapy is

Chemotherapy uses anti cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs circulate throughout the body in the bloodstream.

How procarbazine works

Procarbazine disrupts the growth of cancer cells by stopping the cells from making proteins and DNA. Cancer cells need to make proteins and DNA so they can grow and multiply.

How you have procarbazine

You take procarbazine as capsules.

Taking your tablets or capsules

You must take tablets and capsules 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.

Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.

When you have procarbazine

You usually have procarbazine chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment. You might have it with other cancer drugs. Your treatment plan depends on which type of cancer you have.

Hodgkin lymphoma

You normally take the capsules every day for 10 to 14 days at the same time and then have around 2 to 4 weeks with no treatment. You might start with a small dose and then your doctor will gradually increase it. Or, you might take procarbazine every other day to get the right dose.


You have blood tests before 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.

Side effects of procarbazine

Important information

Other medicines, food and drink

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.

Procarbazine interacts with alcohol and some foods and could cause:

  • sickness
  • headaches
  • difficulty breathing
  • sweating
  • faintness
  • drowsiness

You should not drink alcohol while you are taking procarbazine.

Reactions to food are rare. You might want to try these foods a little bit at a time until you are sure you are not having a reaction to them:

  • mature or processed cheeses
  • yeast or meat extracts - such as Marmite, Oxo or Bovril
  • salami and pepperoni
  • overripe fruit
  • non alcoholic beers or wines
  • fermented or pickled foods

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're 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 into your breast milk.


You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. 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. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.

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.


Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and the shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine (as an injection)
  • be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections

Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as oral polio or the typhoid vaccine.

This also includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s poo for up to 2 weeks and could 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 should also avoid close contact with children who have had the flu vaccine nasal spray if your immune system is severely weakened. 

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.