Procarbazine is a chemotherapy drug used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma and some other types of cancer. This information should ideally be read with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.
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Procarbazine is a chemotherapy drug used to treat Hodgkin lymphoma. It may also be used to treat other cancers.
It is best to read this information with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.
Procarbazine is given as tablets. You may have it as an outpatient or during a hospital stay. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you how often you will have it.
Like all chemotherapy drugs, procarbazine 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.
Procarbazine comes in capsules. It is sometimes given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs. You can have procarbazine at home or during a stay in hospital. During treatment you usually see a cancer doctor, a chemotherapy nurse or a specialist nurse in the outpatient clinic or in the ward. This is who we mean when we mention your doctor or nurse in this information.
Before or on the day of treatment, a nurse or person trained to take blood (phlebotomist) will take a blood sample from you. This is to check that it is okay for you to have chemotherapy.
You will also see a doctor or nurse before you have chemotherapy. They will ask you how you have been. If your blood results are alright on the day of your treatment, the pharmacist will prepare your chemotherapy. Your nurse will tell you when your treatment is likely to be ready.
You may be given anti-sickness tablets to take home as well. Your nurse or pharmacist will explain them to you.
Always take the procarbazine capsules exactly as explained. It's important to take your capsules at the right times. This is to make sure they work as well as possible for you. Don’t open the capsules. They should be swallowed whole with a large glass of water.
If you are sick just after taking the capsules, contact the hospital. You may need to take another dose. If you forget to take a capsule, do not take a double dose. Keep to your regular schedule and let your doctor or nurse know.
Other things to remember about your capsules:
Chemotherapy is usually given as a course of several sessions (cycles) of treatment over a few months. The length of your treatment and the number of cycles you have will depend on the type of cancer you're being treated for. Your nurse or doctor will discuss your treatment plan with you.
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.
This treatment 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:
It is important to follow any specific advice your cancer treatment team gives you.
The number of white blood cells will usually return to normal before your next treatment.
You will have a blood test before having more treatment. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may delay your treatment for a short time.
This treatment can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot.
Tell your doctor if you have any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
Some people may need a drip to give them extra platelets. This is called a platelet transfusion.
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.
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.
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.
If you have diarrhoea, contact the hospital for advice. Try to drink at least 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluids every day. It can help to avoid alcohol, caffeine, milk products, high-fat foods and high-fibre foods.
You may get pain in your muscles or joints for a few days after chemotherapy. If this happens, tell your doctor so they can give you painkillers. Tell them if the pain does not get better. Having warm baths and taking regular rests may help.
This treatment affects the nerves, which can cause numb, tingling or painful hands or feet. You may find it hard to fasten buttons or do other fiddly tasks.
Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms. They sometimes need to lower the dose of the drug.
The symptoms usually improve slowly after treatment finishes, but for some people they may never go away. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about this.
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:
Chemotherapy may affect your skin. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect. If your skin feels dry, try using an unperfumed moisturising cream every day. Procarbazine can cause a rash, which may be itchy.
Always tell your doctor or nurse about any skin changes. They can give you advice and may prescribe creams or medicines to help. Any changes to your skin are usually temporary and improve when treatment finishes.
This treatment can affect how your liver works. This is usually mild and goes back to normal after treatment. You will have blood tests to check how well your liver is working.
Rarely, this drug can cause an allergic reaction. Signs of a reaction can include:
Tell your nurse straight away if you have any of these symptoms. Contact the hospital immediately if you develop any of these symptoms after you get home. You should contact the hospital on the number they gave you or visit the nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.
This treatment can cause changes to the lungs. Tell your doctor if you develop:
You should also tell them if any existing breathing problems get worse. You may have tests to check your lungs.
Procarbazine can affect the nervous system. You may have pins and needles or feel tingling in your arms and legs. Some people feel drowsy or confused. You may feel dizzy or unsteady. Rarely procarbazine can cause you to have seizures (fits). Your doctor can prescribe drugs to prevent fits. They will explain more about this.
Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you notice any of these symptoms. They may make some changes to your treatment if they become a problem for you. It’s important not to drive or operate machinery if you notice these effects.
Rarely, procarbazine can increase the risk of developing a second cancer, usually leukaemia, years later. But the benefits of treatment usually far outweigh this risk. Your doctor can talk to you about this.
It’s best to avoid certain foods, alcohol and alcohol-free beers and wines when you’re taking procarbazine. These can cause a reaction which can make you feel sick, and cause headaches, sweating, drowsiness and breathing problems. Avoid foods such as mature cheeses, salami, and yeast or beef extracts (Oxo®, Bovril® and Marmite®). Your nurse, doctor or pharmacist will give you more advice on foods to avoid.
Some medicines can affect chemotherapy or be harmful when you are having it. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist.
Tell your cancer doctor about any drugs you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, complementary therapies and herbal drugs.
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.
Your doctor will advise you not to get pregnant or make someone pregnant while having this treatment. The drugs may harm a developing baby. It is important to use contraception during your treatment and for a while after treatment finishes. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can tell you more about this.
If you have sex in the first few days after chemotherapy, you need to use a condom. This is to protect your partner in case there is any chemotherapy in semen or vaginal fluids.
Chemotherapy can sometimes stop the ovaries working. You may not get a period every month and they may eventually stop. In some women, this is temporary, but for others it is permanent and they start the menopause.
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.
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