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Gemcitabine is used in the treatment of ovarian cancer, head and neck cancer, cervical cancer, testicular cancer., breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), blood cancer, lung cancer, bone cancer and urinary bladder cancer.

How it works

Gemcitabine belongs to a class of medication called anti-metabolites. It is cytotoxic in nature. They kill rapidly dividing cells (e.g. cancer cells) thus slowing down the spread of cancer in the body.

Common side effects

Decreased urination, Constipation, Diarrhoea, Fever, Hair loss, Headache, Influenza like symptoms, Loss of appetite, Mouth ulcer, Nausea, Sore throat, Tarry stools, Urine discolouration, Vomiting


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Expert advice

  • Not recommended in children or adolescents below 18 years of age.
  • Inform your doctor if you have history of heart problems, vascular problems or low production of blood cells from the bone marrow (myelosupression).
  • Inform your doctor if you have breathing problems or feel weak and pale as this could be a sign of kidney dysfunction; unexplained new or worsening dyspnea or evidence of severe pulmonary toxicity.
  • Take precautions if you are on a controlled sodium diet, as this medicine contains some amount of sodium.
  • You should undergo blood count, heart/kidney/liver function tests before therapy.
  • Do not take live or attenuated vaccines during therapy and avoid contact with persons who receive them.
  • Alcohol is an ingredient of this infusion. If you are suffering from alcoholism or epilepsy, you may have serious side effects. Other medication taken at this time may have altered effects. 
  • Women who are planning to become pregnant should be counselled about the toxic effect of this drug on babies. 
  • They should use two effective methods of contraception while on this therapy and 6 months after it.
  • Men who are going to use this therapy should not father a child while on this therapy and 6 months after it. They should also seek guidance and counselling on sperm conservation before taking this therapy.
  • Do not drive or use machinery after taking this drug as it may cause sleepiness which may worsen with alcohol use.

Frequently asked questions


Q.Is gemcitabine a vesicant/ anthracycline/ prodrug?
Gemcitabine is not a vesicant/ anthracycline/ prodrug

Q.Does gemcitabine cause hair loss or abdominal pain?
Yes, gemcitabine has hair loss and abdominal pain as side effects. Please consult your doctor immediately if you experience such side effects

Q.Is gemcitabine a cytotoxic or chemotherapy agent?
Yes, gemcitabine is a cytotoxic chemotherapy agent

Q.Does gemcitabine work in pancreatic cancer?
Yes, gemcitabine is used to treat pancreatic cancer.

Content on this page was last updated on 30 November, 2016, by Dr. Varun Gupta (MD Pharmacology)