Gemcitibine chemotherapy (Gemzar®)

Gemcitabine is commonly used to treat pancreatic cancer.

It is a colourless fluid, which is usually given by intravenous infusion (through a drip) with each infusion usually lasting around 30 minutes. 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?

Usually the side effects of Gemcitabine are relatively mild.

The most common side effects are:

  • A drop in blood cells 
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms (aching muscles, headache, chills)
  • A raised temperature 6-12 hours after infusion (a reaction to the drug rather than an infection)
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Swelling of feet/legs due to fluid retention
  • Skin rash
  • Hair thinning (it’s rare for it to completely fall out)

Occasionally, patients will experience:

  • Mouth ulcers
  • Diarrhoea
  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in taste
  • Constipation
  • Loss of fertility
  • Some women may find their periods stop (amenorrhoea) this is often temporary

The Information Standard Logo The information provided in this site, or through links to other websites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care and should not be relied upon as such. Read our disclaimer.

Sources and references for this information product will be supplied on request. Please contact us quoting the Information Product number below:

Information Product № Published 03/10/2019
Last Updated 16/10/2019 Next Review Due 02/09/2022