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Doxorubicin (Adriamycin, adria, ADR, DOXO)

Article Translations: (Spanish)

How does this medicine work?

Doxorubicin (doks-oh-roo-bi-sin) is a chemotherapy medicine that destroys cancer cells in all phases of cell life.

How is the medicine given?

Doxorubicin is given into a vein (IV) in the hospital or clinic.

What are the side effects?


  • low blood cell counts


  • moderate nausea, vomiting
  • hair loss
  • red- or orange-colored urine for up to 48 hours after infusion


  • mouth sores
  • may "reactivate" redness in an area of previous radiation
  • darkening of nail beds and skin folds


  • cardiac muscle damage with prolonged use
  • secondary cancer

Tissue burn may occur if the medicine leaks from the vein or implanted port.

When should I call the doctor?

  • fever, chills
  • cough
  • hoarseness
  • bleeding, unusual bruising
  • mouth sores
  • continued vomiting
  • continued diarrhea
  • skin irritation
  • sunburn
  • irregular heartbeat
  • redness, pain, or blisters at implanted port or IV catheter site
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • sudden rash or hives
    • itching
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

All caregivers should wear gloves when handling urine, stool, and vomit while your child is receiving the chemotherapy and for 48 hours afterward. Urine, stool, and vomit can be safely disposed of in septic tanks and the sewer system.

Any clothing or bed linens that are contaminated with urine, stool, or vomit should be washed separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent. Anyone handling the contaminated laundry should wear gloves.

If the patient has an implanted port or had an IV, check the site for redness, pain, or blisters for 3 days after the infusion. Call the clinic right away if they occur.

Blood samples will be drawn to check the effects of the doxorubicin. Blood counts are lowest 10 to 14 days after the medicine is given.

Risk of heart damage increases when total lifetime doses are high. Echocardiograms are done to look for early signs of problems during treatment and off treatment.

Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.

Prevent sunburn. During treatment and for one year after, your child should wear sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), a hat, and protective clothing when outdoors. Avoid extensive exposure to sunlight.

You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child's care.

Check with the doctor, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist before giving any other prescription or non-prescription medicines, herbs, or vitamins.


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the oncology clinic or pharmacy.

Last reviewed 8/2015

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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