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Irinotecan (also called Camptosar®) is an anticancer medicine. It is available as a clear to light yellow liquid given by vein (IV) and as a clear liquid taken by mouth.

Irinotecan can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving this drug. For 48 hours after this drug is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.”

Possible side effects


  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, and pain in abdomen
  • Runny nose, more tears and saliva produced
  • Rash

Later (usually more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Low blood counts with a higher risk of infection, bleeding, anemia, and feeling tired
  • Hair loss
  • Decreased liver function
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss

Call the doctor right away if you have any of the following side effects:

  • Severe diarrhea
  • Feeling dizzy and lightheaded or fainting
  • Dry, hot skin
  • Extreme thirst
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Unusual tired or weak feeling
  • Swelling in the face, lips, or throat

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse or pharmacist at 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Pregnancy risk

This medicine may be harmful to the unborn child Avoid becoming pregnant during treatment. Contact one of your caregivers at St. Jude if you are sexually active or think you may be pregnant.

Special instructions

  • Irinotecan can cause nausea and vomiting. The doctor may prescribe medicine to keep you from feeling sick and throwing up after you receive irinotecan.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse right away if you have diarrhea while you are receiving irinotecan. If needed, a medicine may be prescribed to help control the diarrhea.
  • If you have severe diarrhea, the doctor may prescribe IV fluids.
  • The staff will draw blood samples regularly to check for changes in liver function and blood counts.
  • Tell the nurse right away if you have pain or redness at the IV site.
  • It may be easier for you to get infections while you are receiving irinotecan. Stay away from crowds and people with colds, flu, or other infections.
  • This medicine may make your mouth sore and irritated. The doctor or nurse may give you oral rinses to keep your mouth clean after you receive irinotecan.
  • It is not known whether irinotecan passes into breast milk. This medicine might cause serious harm to a nursing infant. Women who are taking irinotecan should not breast-feed a baby.
  • The oral liquid irinotecan should be taken on an empty stomach.
  • If the oral liquid form is used, each dose will be measured in advance by the pharmacy and put in an oral syringe. Each oral syringe holds one (1) dose. Report any doses wasted or vomited to your doctor or nurse.
  • You can mix the liquid with cranberry-grape juice or flavored syrup right before it is taken.
  • Store the liquid medicine in the refrigerator. Do not use after the expiration date printed on the label.

Safe handling

All chemotherapy drugs taken by mouth can post a health hazard to caregivers and patients. You should be careful when handling this medicine and try to keep the drug from touching the skin. Taking precautions will ensure that both the patient and the caregiver are protected as well as possible.

  • Prepare a clean area where the drug can be handled safely (away from areas where food is prepared, out of the reach of children, and out from under any air vents or fans).
  • We suggest you or the caregiver wear gloves while handling this medicine. Wash your hands right away if your skin comes in contact with the medicine.
  • Completely clean up any spills in the area where the medicine is prepared.
  • For the liquid, use each oral syringe only one (1) time and then discard it in the trash. Do not try to wash and reuse the syringes.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).