Doxorubicin is given into the vein (IV). If the drug leaks out of the vein and under the skin, it may damage the tissue, causing pain, ulceration, and scarring. Tell the nurse right away if you notice redness, pain, or swelling at or near the IV.
You may have nausea and vomiting on the day you receive this drug or in the first few days afterward. Your doctor may give you medicine before your treatment to help prevent nausea and vomiting. You will likely also get a prescription for an anti-nausea medicine that you can take at home. It is important to have these medicines on hand and to take them as prescribed by your doctor.
Do not get any immunizations (vaccines), either during or after treatment with this drug, without your doctor's OK. This drug may affect your immune system, which could make vaccinations ineffective, or could even lead to serious infections. Try to avoid contact with people who have recently received a live virus vaccine, such as the oral polio vaccine or smallpox vaccine. Check with your doctor about this.
Your doctor will likely test your blood throughout your treatment, looking for possible effects of the drug on blood counts (described below) or on other body organs. Based on the test results, you may be given medicines to help treat any effects. Your doctor may also need to reduce or delay your next dose of this drug, or even stop it altogether.
Doxorubicin can lower your white blood cell count, especially in the weeks after the drug is given. This can increase your chance of getting an infection. Be sure to let your doctor or nurse know right away if you have any signs of infection, such as fever (100.5° or higher), chills, pain with urination, a new cough, diarrhea, or bringing up sputum.
This drug may lower your platelet count in the weeks after it is given, which can increase your risk of bleeding. Speak with your doctor before taking any drugs or supplements that might affect your body's ability to stop bleeding, such as aspirin or aspirin-containing medicines, warfarin (Coumadin), or vitamin E. 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.
Doxorubicin may cause sores in the mouth or on the lips, which often occur within the first few weeks after starting treatment. This can cause mouth pain, bleeding, or even trouble eating. Your doctor or nurse can suggest ways to reduce this, such as changing the way you eat or how you brush your teeth. If needed, your doctor can prescribe medicine to help with the pain.
Large total doses of doxorubicin may injure your heart muscle and can cause congestive heart failure either during or after your treatment. To ensure that any damage is found early, your doctor will test your heart function before you receive your first treatment, and then during the treatment. During and after your treatment with doxorubicin, let your doctor know right away if you notice shortness of breath, swollen feet or ankles, or irregular heartbeat. These effects can show up months or even years after you get the drug.
Doxorubicin can cause radiation recall. If you have ever had radiation therapy, the skin or tissue damage from prior radiation therapy can become red and appear damaged again after you get this drug. Tell your doctor or nurse if your skin gets red in areas where radiation was given.
This drug can kill large numbers of cancer cells within the first 24 hours of treatment, spilling the cells' contents into the blood. This can lead to electrolyte imbalances and tumor lysis syndrome, which can result in serious kidney damage and other problems. If your doctor thinks you may be at risk, he or she will give you medicines and/or fluids to help prevent it. If you notice pain in the back or sides of your chest, or blood in your urine, call your doctor right away.
Doxorubicin causes the urine to turn reddish for 1 to 2 days after each dose is given. This is a normal side effect that occurs while your body gets rid of the drug, but it may stain clothes.
This drug can cause allergic reactions. Mild reactions usually consist of fever and chills. More serious reactions are rare. Symptoms can include feeling lightheaded or dizzy (due to low blood pressure), fever or chills, hives (welts), nausea, itching, headache, coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, or swelling of the face, eyes, tongue, or throat. Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you notice any of these symptoms.