Procarbazine is a type of chemotherapy drug. You might have it as a treatment for a number of different types of cancers. 

How procarbazine works

Procarbazine destroys quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

How you have procarbazine

You take procarbazine as capsules.

Taking your capsules

You must take your 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 healthcare team before you stop taking or miss a dose of a cancer drug.

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

When you have procarbazine

You usually have procarbazine as a course of several cycles of treatment. This means that you have the drug and then a rest to allow your body to recover.

You usually have it with other cancer drugs, but you can sometimes have it on its own. Your treatment plan depends on your cancer type. 


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

How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. 

When to contact your team

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:

  • you have severe side effects 
  • your side effects aren’t getting any better
  • your side effects are getting worse

Early treatment can help manage side effects better. 

Contact your advice line immediately if you have signs of infection, including a temperature above 37.5C or below 36C.

We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.

Common side effects

These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

Feeling or being sick

Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques can all help.

It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.

This usually improves after the first few days.

Loss of appetite

You might lose your appetite for various reasons whilst having cancer treatment. Sickness, taste changes or tiredness can put you off food and drinks.

Other side effects

There isn't enough information to work out how often these side effects might happen. You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • increased risk of getting an infection due to low white blood cell count
  • bruising and bleeding more easily due to a low number of platelets
  • lack of energy (lethargy)
  • feeling drowsy
  • inflammation of the lung tissue - you may be short of breath, cough, or have a burning feeling in your chest
  • liver problems – you might have severe vomiting, feeling sick, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • allergic reaction which can cause a skin rash, itching of the skin, shortness of breath, redness or swelling of the face, feeling faint or fainting, or dizziness
  • a rare cancer of the blood called acute myeloid leukaemia (AML)

Coping with side effects

We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.

What else do I need to know?

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 can interact with alcohol, non-alcoholic beers and other foods which are not fresh. More so if they have been fermented, pickled, smoked ‘hung’ or ‘matured’. Some of the foods that could cause an interaction include:

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

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.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment may 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 at least 6 months afterwards.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment. Let them know straight away if you or your partner falls pregnant while having 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 might be able to store sperm before starting treatment. And women might be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue. But these services are not available in every hospital, so you would need to ask your doctor about this.    

Driving and use of machinery

This drug can make you feel drowsy. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery if you feel drowsy.

Treatment and 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 6 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 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've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid close contact with people who’ve 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.

This page is due for review. We will update this as soon as possible.

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