Fluorouracil Chemotherapy (5-FU)

5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is a liquid, which is administered intravenously (through a drip).

Sometimes a vitamin called folinic acid is given at the same time as this helps the chemotherapy drug work better.You will often be given anti-sickness drugs (anti-emetics) at the same time.

How is it given?

Intravenous infusions are given through a thin, short tube (cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment. Alternatively, you may have a central line, a portacath or a PICC line inserted just before your treatment starts. These are tubes that give the drugs directly into a large vein in your chest and will stay in place as long as you need them.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects are:

  • A drop in blood cells 
  • Mouth Ulcers and/or sore mouth
  • Diarrhoea
  • Skin changes due to excess production of pigment
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Being or feeling sick

Occasionally, patients will experience:

  • Greater sensitivity to sunlight
  • Gritty eyes and blurred vision
  • Hair thinning (it’s rare for it to completely fall out)
  • Chipped, brittle and ridged nails
  • Loss of appetite
  • If you have had continuous infusions of fluorouracil over a long period you may develop redness and peeling on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet known as palmar-plantar syndrome
  • Loss of fertility
  • Some women may find their periods stop (amenorrhoea) this is often temporary

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Information Product No. | Published: 03/10/2019 | Last Updated: 16/10/2019 | Next Review Due: 03/10/2022