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Gemcitabine (Gemzar)

How does this medicine work?

Gemcitabine (jem-cy-ta-bean) destroys cancer cells in all phases of cell life.

How is it given?

Gemcitabine is given into the vein (IV) by an infusion in the hospital or clinic.

Are there any precautions about food or other medicines?

Check with the doctor or pharmacist before giving any other prescription or non-prescription medicines, including vaccines.

What are the side effects?


  • nausea, vomiting
  • fever
  • pain at the infusion site if given by peripheral IV
  • fluid build up in tissues causing swelling
  • flu-like symptoms
  • rash
  • mild diarrhea or constipation
  • low white and red blood cell counts
  • decreased liver function
  • protein in urine
  • blood in urine


  • unnatural drowsiness
  • difficulty breathing
  • mouth sores
  • weakness
  • hair loss
  • numbness, tingling or itching
  • bleeding

Rare side effects

  • decreased blood pressure
  • hemolytic uremic syndrome, causing fever, decreased kidney function, low hemoglobin and platelets
  • kidney or liver toxicity
  • confusion
  • seizure
  • coma

When should I call the doctor?

  • continued vomiting or diarrhea
  • fever, chills, or sore throat
  • yellowing of skin or eyes
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • severe diarrhea
  • very tired or weak
  • severe mouth sores
  • blood in urine or stools
  • cloudy urine
  • urinating less than usual
  • pain, redness, or swelling at the IV site
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • fever or chills
    • rash or hives
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

Infections can occur more easily while on this medicine. Stay away from crowds or people with colds, flu, or other infections.

Gemcitabine can cause nausea and vomiting. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to prevent this.

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.

For females of child-bearing age: Do not get pregnant while you are receiving gemcitabine. If you are sexually active, use an effective method of birth control.

Blood samples may be needed to check the effects of the gemcitabine. Please keep all of your appointments.

Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.

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.


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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