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Irinotecan (Camptosar)

Irinotecan: Precautions

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Do not take any medications without first checking with your oncologist or nurse. (If you stop taking a medication prescribed by another doctor, let that doctor know.

Lowered platetlet count which can increase your risk of bleeding. Do not take aspirin, ibuprofen such as Mortin or Advil, products containing them, warafin (Coumadin), or vitamin E without checking with your doctor first. Tell your doctor right away if you have unusual bruising, or bleeding such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, or black, tarry stools.

If you undergo surgery or other procedure, tell your doctor or dentist before hand that you are on Irinotecan.

Keep an anti nausea prescription filled and with you "just in case" so you can stop nausea quickly.

Do not get any vaccines during or after treatment without first checking with your doctor. Try to avoid contact with people who have recently received a live virus vaccine, such as the oral polio vaccine or smallpox vaccine.

Call your doctor if :

  • You have pain your belly and cannot move your bowels, especially if you also have bloating and loss of appetite.
  • You experience any unexpected symptoms, or they are worse than expected. 
  • You have a fever of 100.5 degrees F or higher.
  • You get a new or worsening cough or trouble breathing. It may be a rare lung side effect. 

NOTE: As a practical matter, if you experience chemotherapy related diarrhea,  it is usually advisable to start with an over-the-counter medication such as Immodium rather than a stronger medication. Stronger medications can lead to constipation, which then has to be treated. This can become a back and forth seesaw making you very uncomfortable in the process. (For information about dealing with constipation, click here.)

To make life easier, patient advocates suggest that patients carry Immodium or another over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication "just in case." The odds are that if diarrhea happens, you won't be able to immediately get to a pharmacy or other store to get anti-diarrheal medication.  The sooner you start treating diarrhea, the sooner you are likely to get it under control. Uncontrolled diarrhea can leads to unnecessary complications - and feeling poorly to boot.

When taking Immodium, follow the instructions on the container. However, if the diarrhea is more like a watery liquid (not just loose bowels), experienced patient advocates have found that Immodium can be more effective if taken every two hours for 12 hours straight. It doesn't matter if the condition continues - one episode of watery diarrhea is enough to trigger the suggestion.  DO NOT take this suggestion without checking with your health care team first.

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