Epirubicin belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications known as antineoplastics, and specifically to the family of antineoplastics called anthracyclines. It is used alone or in combination with other antineoplastics to treat many types of cancer including breast cancer, lung cancer, ovary cancer, stomach cancer, and lymphoma.
Epirubicin prevents the growth of cancer cells by interfering with the genetic material DNA, which is necessary for reproduction of cells.
- Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
- Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
- Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
- There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
- There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.
- The side effects of epirubicin and their severity depend on how much of the drug is given. In other words, high doses may produce more severe side effects).
How epirubicin is givenBack to top
You usually have epirubicin in the chemotherapy day unit or during a stay in hospital. A chemotherapy nurse will give it to you. It is often given with other chemotherapy drugs. 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.
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 about how you have been feeling. 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.
Your nurse gives you anti-sickness drugs before the chemotherapy. They give you these and the epirubicin through one of the following:
- a short thin tube that the nurse puts into a vein in your arm or hand (cannula)
- a fine tube that goes under the skin of your chest and into a vein close by (central line)
- a fine tube that is put into a vein in your arm and goes up into a vein in your chest (PICC line).
Epirubicin is a red fluid. Your nurse gives it to you as an injection directly into your vein with a drip (infusion) to flush it through.
Epirubicin can also be given straight into the bladder (intravesically) to treat non-invasive bladder cancer. Hardly any of the drug is absorbed into the blood, so it rarely affects the rest of the body. You can read more in our information on non-invasive bladder cancer.
When the chemotherapy is being given
Some people might have side effects while they are having the chemotherapy.
Epirubicin may cause an allergic reaction while it’s being given. Your nurse will check you for this. If you have a reaction, they will treat it quickly. Signs of a reaction can include:
- a rash
- feeling itchy, flushed or short of breath
- swelling of your face or lips
- feeling dizzy
- having pain in your tummy, back or chest
- feeling unwell.
Tell your nurse straight away if you have any of these symptoms.