Mitotane (Lysodren®) is used to treat a rare cancer of the adrenal glands called adrenal cortical carcinoma. It is best to read this information with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.
Find information, articles and activities relevant to you.
If you're struggling to find what you need, call our Support line on 0808 808 0000 (7 days a week, 8am-8pm)More ways to contact us
Mitotane (Lysodren®) is a chemotherapy drug used to treat a rare cancer of the adrenal glands called adrenal cortical carcinoma.
It is best to read this information with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.
Mitotane is given as tablets. You usually have it as an outpatient. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you how often you will have it.
Like all chemotherapy drugs, mitotane can cause side effects. Some of the side effects can be serious, so it is important to read the detailed information below.
Your healthcare team can give you advice on how to manage any side effects. Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you:
Rarely, side effects may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.
If you need medical attention for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare staff that you are having this treatment.
You usually have mitotane as an outpatient. During treatment, you usually see a cancer doctor, a chemotherapy nurse or a specialist nurse. This is who we mean when we mention doctor or nurse in this information.
Mitotane is taken as tablets. The nurse or pharmacist gives you the chemotherapy tablets to take at home. Always take your tablets exactly as they have explained. This is important to make sure they work as well as possible for you.
Mitotane tablets are taken two or three times a day. Swallow the tablets whole with a glass of water. Take them during a meal that contains fats, such as milk, oil or cheese. Fats help the body to absorb the drug.
You usually start taking a low dose of mitotane. Your doctor will gradually increase the dose. They will check the amount of mitotane in your blood by taking regular blood tests. You will need to have your blood checked once or twice a week when you first start taking mitotane. Once the doctors are happy with your dose, they will check your blood around once a month.
If you forget to take a dose of mitotane, do not take a double dose. Take your next dose as normal and let your pharmacist, nurse or doctor know.
Other things to remember about your tablets:
Your doctor may give you steroid tablets to take while you are having mitotane. This is because mitotane can reduce the amount of steroids your body makes. Steroids are natural hormones produced by the adrenal glands.
Not producing enough steroids can affect the body’s defence system. Your body’s ability to respond quickly to stress (such as shock, severe injury or infection) may be reduced. Your doctor will monitor this closely. If you have an injury, infection or other stressful situation, they may need to stop your treatment until you recover.
Your pharmacist will give you a card to carry at all times. If you suddenly become unwell or have an accident, the card will tell the doctor that you are taking mitotane and steroids. Your pharmacist may suggest that you wear a medical alert bracelet stating that you are taking mitotane.
We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some less common side effects.
You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them.
If you are also having treatment with other cancer drugs, you may have some side effects that we haven’t listed here.
Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have.
Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects.
It is important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This means they will be more likely to work for you.
Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects.
After your treatment is over, most side effects start to improve.
Some cancer treatments can cause severe side effects. Rarely, these may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.
Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call them at any time of the day or night.
Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.
We cannot list every side effect for this treatment. There are some rare side effects that are not listed. You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information.
Chemotherapy can reduce the number of white blood cells in your blood. These cells fight infection. If the number of white blood cells is low, you are more likely to get an infection. A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia.
If you have an infection, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour contact number you have if:
Symptoms of an infection include:
Chemotherapy can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any bruising or bleeding that you can’t explain. This includes:
Some people may need a drip to give them extra platelets. This is called a platelet transfusion.
If your platelets are low and you cut yourself, it may take longer for the bleeding to stop. If you notice this, tell your doctor.
This treatment can reduce the number of red blood cells in your blood. These cells carry oxygen around the body.
If the number of red blood cells is low, you may be tired and breathless. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel like this.
If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra red blood cells. This is called a blood transfusion.
This treatment can cause reduced steroid levels. The side effects of this include feeling very tired (fatigue), muscle weakness, dizziness, fainting and vomiting. The steroid tablets prescribed by your doctor will reduce the risk of these effects. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.
You may feel sick in the first few days after this treatment. Your doctor will give you anti-sickness drugs to help prevent or control sickness. Take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist tells you.
It is easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.
If you feel sick, take small sips of fluids and eat small amounts often.
If you continue to feel sick, or if you vomit more than once in 24 hours, contact the hospital as soon as possible. They will give you advice and may change the anti-sickness drug to one that works better for you.
This treatment can affect your appetite. Do not worry if you do not eat much for a day or two. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, tell your nurse or dietitian. They will give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements.
Mitotane can cause diarrhoea. This can usually be easily controlled with medicine. Tell your doctor if it is severe or continues. If you have diarrhoea, it is important to drink plenty of fluids.
You may get a sore mouth or mouth ulcers. This can make you more likely to get a mouth infection.
Use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth or dentures in the morning, at night and after meals.
If your mouth is sore:
Mitotane can affect the nervous system. Symptoms of this can include:
If you notice any of these symptoms, tell your doctor or nurse straight away. They may make some changes to your treatment if the symptoms become a problem for you.
It is important not to drive or operate machinery if you notice these effects.
Feeling tired is a common side effect. It is often worse towards the end of treatment and for some weeks after it has finished.
Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest.
Gentle exercise, like short walks, can give you more energy.
If you feel sleepy, do not drive or operate machinery.
Mitotane can cause a rash, which may be itchy. Your doctor can prescribe medicine to help. Any changes to your skin are usually temporary and improve when treatment finishes.
Some men may develop breast swelling and tenderness. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to reduce any discomfort.
Mitotane may affect the way your liver works. This is usually mild and goes back to normal after treatment. You are very unlikely to notice any problems, but your doctor or nurse will take regular blood samples to check your liver is working properly.
Mitotane can increase the cholesterol levels in your blood. Your doctor will monitor your cholesterol levels with blood tests.
Mitotane may affect your eyesight. However, this is very rare. If you notice any blurred vision or clouding, let your doctor know.
Cancer and some cancer treatments can increase the risk of a blood clot. Symptoms of a blood clot include:
If you have any of these symptoms, contact a doctor straight away.
A blood clot is serious, but can be treated with drugs that thin the blood. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.
Some medicines, including those that you can buy in a shop or chemist, can be harmful to take when you are having mitotane.
You should not take the herbal drug St John’s Wort or the water tablet (diuretic) spironolactone when you are taking mitotane. Spironolactone is also known as Aldacton or Aldactide®. If you are taking blood-thinning drugs (anticoagulants), such as warfarin, your dose may need to be monitored more closely.
Drinking alcohol can make some symptoms worse. You should avoid drinking alcohol while you are taking mitotane.
Some cancer drugs can affect whether you can get pregnant or make someone pregnant.
If you are a woman, your periods may become irregular or stop. This may be temporary, but for some women it is permanent. Your menopause may start sooner than it would have done.
Your doctor will advise you not to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking mitotane. This is because the drugs may harm a developing baby. It is important to use contraception during, and for a few months after, chemotherapy. You can discuss this with your doctor or specialist nurse.
If you have sex during this course of chemotherapy, you need to use a condom. This is to protect your partner in case there is any chemotherapy in semen or vaginal fluids.
Women are advised not to breastfeed while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. This is because the drugs could be passed to the baby through breast milk.
If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having cancer treatment.
Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.
If you think you need dental treatment, talk to your cancer doctor or nurse. Always tell your dentist you are having cancer treatment.
If you have a lot on your mind, you might find it useful to make a checklist. You can use our checklists for home, work and travel to help you get organised.
Order booklets or audio CDs about chemotherapy. It includes how it works, having treatment and how it might affect you.
All types of treatment can have different side effects. Know what to expect to help you find the best way for you to handle them.
What's happening near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you are.
Read about our Community champions' experience of chemotherapy. They talk about what to bring to treatment, side effects and friendship between patients.
A support group for everything about chemotherapy, being treated and side effects. Tell others about your experiences and get answers to your questions.
We rely on a number of sources to gather evidence for our information. If you’d like further information on the sources we use, please feel free to contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
All our information is reviewed by cancer or other relevant professionals to ensure that it’s accurate and reflects the best evidence available. We thank all those people who have provided expert review for the information on this page.
Our information is also reviewed by people affected by cancer to ensure it is as relevant and accessible as possible. Thank you to all those people who reviewed what you're reading and have helped our information to develop.
You could help us too when you join our Cancer Voices Network – find out more at: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancervoices
Need to talk? Call us free* 0808 808 00 00 7 days a week, 8am-8pm
© Macmillan Cancer Support, registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604). Also operating in Northern Ireland. A company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales company number 2400969. Isle of Man company number 4694F. Registered office: 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UQ. VAT no: 668265007
We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and up-to-date but it should not be relied upon as a substitute for specialist professional advice tailored to your situation. So far as is permitted by law, Macmillan does not accept liability in relation to the use of any information contained in this publication or third party information or websites included or referred to in it.