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Mitomycin Print


Generic name: Mitomycin
Trade name:
Other names:

Drug type:Mitomycin C is a chemotherapy drug. Doctors mainly use it to treat bladder and rectal cancers, but also sometimes pancreatic, lung and breast cancers. It works by sticking the cancer cell’s DNA (the cell’s genetic code) together so that it can not come apart again. This means that the cell cannot divide so the cancer cannot grow.

Mitomycin C is a purple liquid. You may have it:

  • As an injection or infusion (drip) through a fine tube (cannula) put into one of your veins
  • Through a central line that goes into a vein near your collarbone
  • Straight into the bladder (known as bladder instillation)

There is more information about how you have chemotherapy in CancerHelp UK.

You usually have chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment. The treatment plan for mitomycin C depends on which cancer you are being treated for. To find out more about how doctors plan chemotherapy in CancerHelp UK.

The side effects of mitomycin C are listed below. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect or click on search at the top of the page.

Common side effects

If you have mitomycin C into your bladder, it causes very few side effects. The bladder can feel inflamed and sore after the treatment - as though you have cystitis. You may feel you need to pass urine more often than usual. You should wash your hands thoroughly after passing urine when you've had this treatment. If the urine touches your skin, the mitomycin C may cause a rash.

People who have mitomycin into the bloodstream may have one or more of the following side effects:

  • Fatigue may be the most troublesome side effect of all - it often carries on after treatment has ended, but most people find their energy levels are back to normal from 6 months to a year after their treatment ends
  • A temporary effect on the bone marrow causing:
    • An increased risk of getting infections. This is due to a temporary drop in the number of white blood cells produced by the bone marrow. Having a low white blood count means that you are less able to fight infections and can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, sore throat, pain passing urine or feel cold and shivery. Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your doctor urgently if you think you have an infection.
    • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in the number of red blood cells made by your bone marrow (anaemia) - you may need a blood transfusion
    • Bruising more easily due to a drop in the number of platelets made by your bone marrow. You may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs, nosebleeds or bleeding gums when brushing your teeth.
    • Contact your hospital if you have any of these bone marrow side effects. These effects on the bone marrow can be severe and long lasting with mitomycin C. They may begin about 3 weeks after treatment and last until 8 weeks after treatment. Your doctor will check your level of blood cells regularly to see how well your bone marrow is working.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Mitomycin C may harm a developing baby - it is not advisable to become pregnant or father a child whilst taking this drug, so you should discuss contraception with your doctor before having the treatment if there is any chance you or your partner could become pregnant

Occasional side effects

Some people may have some of these side effects

  • While you are actually having the chemotherapy infusion, mitomycin C may leak into the body tissue around the infusion vein and cause damage. It is important to tell the nurse or doctor if you have stinging or burning around the vein, leakage of fluid, redness or swelling around the injection site after treatment has ended
  • Feeling or being sick may happen a few hours after each treatment and last for about 3 days - it is generally well controlled with anti sickness injections and tablets so if you are still feeling or being sick tell your doctor or nurse
  • Sore mouth and mouth ulcers
  • Coughing or breathlessness - tell your doctor if you have this
  • Temporary effect on the liver - your doctor will check your liver with blood tests
  • Your kidneys may be affected and will be checked with blood tests before each treatment
  • A skin rash, which may be itchy
  • Your nails may become darker
  • Diarrhoea - drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor if it is severe or lasts more than a couple of days as you could get dehydrated
  • Some hair thinning
  • Loss of fertility - you may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug, so it is important to talk to your doctor about your fertility before starting treatment if you are concerned
  • Women may stop having periods (amenorrhoea) but this may only be temporary

Important points to remember

The side effects above may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment, or more side effects may develop as the course goes on. This depends on:

  • How many times you've had the drug before
  • Your general health
  • The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
  • Other drugs you are having

Other drugs you are having

Some side effects are serious medical conditions and need treating. Where we have urged you to contact your doctor, this is because:

  • Your side effect may need treating
  • Your drug dose may need reducing to try to prevent the side effect

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and other over the counter remedies - some drugs can react together.

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so that they can help you manage them. Your chemotherapy nurse, clinic or ward nurse will have given you a contact number. You can ring if you have any questions or problems. They can give you advice or reassure you. If in doubt, call them.

Immunisations and chemotherapy

You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having chemotherapy or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG and yellow fever. You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your chemotherapy.

It is perfectly safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with oral vaccines, but no one in the UK is given an oral vaccine now. So there is no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. If you live abroad, you might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio or oral typhoid vaccination recently.

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2010 09:53