Xeloda for Metastatic Breast Cancer


Xeloda in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer

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Xeloda (capecitabine) is an oral chemotherapy drug approved by the FDA to treat metastatic breast cancer in people who have not responded to medications like Taxol (paclitaxel), Taxotere or Adriamycin or anthracycline-containing chemotherapy options.

Xeloda and Breast Cancer

Xeloda can be given alone or with other drugs. If you have already been treated with paclitaxel and Adriamycin(doxorubicin) and had no response, your doctor may recommend that you take Xeloda by itself. If you have had no response from treatment with anthracyclines, your doctor may instead recommend that you take Xeloda in addition to a medication called Taxotere (docetaxel).

How It Works

Once you’ve taken your Xeloda pills, it enters your digestive system. It works to kill cancer cells by acting as a faux building block in a cancer cell’s genes. This makes the cell die before it can divide and slows or stops the cancer from growing.Xeloda is given as either 150mg or 500mg dosages. The tablets are peach colored and oblong in shape. Once your doctor decides on the dosage that you need, you will take it twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening, for a two-week period. You then take a one-week break from Xeloda, after which you go back to taking it for two weeks; this cycle can continue regularly. It’s recommended that you take Xeloda about thirty minutes after eating a meal and with plenty of water.

Side Effects

Common side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Oral mucositis (sores in your mouth, tongue, and throat)
  • Stomach pain
  • Low appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Skin rash or dry, itchy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles or hands
  • Neuropathy, tingling of fingers and toes

The side effects of Xeloda may be different if you are taking it along with Taxotere or other chemotherapy drugs. Be sure to report all of your side effects to your doctor. Note the dates and times they occur, and rank the severity of each symptom.

Call your doctor and stop taking Xeloda immediately if you have these symptoms:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Severe vomiting
  • Painful sores in your mouth and tongue
  • Fever

Possible risks when taking Xeloda include:

  • If you use coumadin or warfarin blood thinning medications, Xeloda can cause your blood to thin more and puts you in danger of extensive bleeding. Tell your doctor if you take any coumarin-derived blood thinner. You may need to take a lower dose of Xeloda.
  • If you are 80 years old or older, Xeloda may cause more diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting than patients under 80 will experience.

You should not take Xeloda if:

  • You are allergic to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)
  • You have kidney or liver problems
  • You are breastfeeding because Xeloda may harm the baby
  • You are pregnant or may become pregnant because Xeloda can harm your fetus
  • About 1 in 20 people have specific liver metabolism enzymes that lead to slower breakdown of the drug. These people can have severe side effects like severe diarrhea and extensive palmar-plantar erythrodesesthesia, with sores on the palms and feet. These people should not take Xeloda.

When You’re Taking Xeloda

When taking Xeloda, try to stay hydrated by drinking more water than you are used to; doctors often recommend you drink two to three quarts of water every 24 hours. You may be told to skip alcohol or caffeine, as these can dry you out. If you experience mouth or tongue sores, replace your usual toothbrush with one with soft bristles.Common cuts are more complicated when you take Xeloda, so it’s important to minimize risk of getting a cut. Doctors usually recommend you switch to an electric razor for shaving for this reason.You may find yourself feeling more susceptible to sunlight; avoid sun exposure and use a good sunscreen whenever you are outside.Some people feel dizzy or drowsy, so plan to take it easy when you’re taking Xeloda. If you’re nauseous, your doctor will recommend anti-nausea medications to help you through.Other than these specifics, you can help yourself feel better by resting, getting plenty of sleep, and regularly eating nutritious foods.

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