Fluorouracil (commonly referred to as 5-FU) is one of the oldest and most widely used systemic treatment agents in the world used to treat cancer.
5-FU prevents cells by disrupting the growth of cancer cells. It interferes with making DNA and RNA by interfering with the the synthesis of nucleic acids.
Like all chemotherapies, 5-FU has side effects. Most side effects are short term. Which side effects will appear, when, and to what extent are totally individual and cannot be predicted for any particular person. Your oncologist will take side effects into account when determining dosage levels. (Dosage levels are likely to change as treatment with 5-FU progresses.)
Side effects include the following. For information about the side effect, and tips for minimizing and coping with them, click on the link.
- Common side effects
- Blood level changes which increase risk of infection and possibly bleeding from minor injuries. For general information about how to avoid infection, as well as in particular situations such as the gym or while in an airplane, click here.
- Mouth sores
- Temporary thinning of the hair three to four weeks after each treatment. For information about how to care for your hair during chemotherapy treatment, click here.
- Nasal stuffiness and watering of the eyes three to four weeks after treatment.
- Dry skin. For tips about minimizing dry skin due to treatment, click here.
- Neuropathy (numbness and tingling in the hands and/or feet)
- Less common side effects
Call your doctor or nurse if:
- You have a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Have any sign of bleeding, bruising or a faint red rash.
- You have any unexpected problems.
- Have more than 3 loose bowel movements a day over your normal bowel routine.
NOTE: It is not advisable to become pregnant while on 5-FU. It is also advisable to use contraception while either partner is on 5-FU to prevent transmission of the drug to the other person.