Capecitabine tablets (Xeloda)

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You will be prescribed capecitabine tablets by a specialist doctor.

Swallow your doses with a drink of water. They should be taken within 30 minutes of eating a meal.

Please keep your regular clinic appointments so that your doctor can check on your progress. If you think you are getting an infection or if you have a high temperature, please contact your doctor for advice straightaway.

Type of medicineAn antimetabolite anti-cancer medicine
Used forTreatment of cancers (in adults) such as colon cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, and breast cancer
Also calledXeloda®
Available asTablets

In cancer, certain cells in the body grow and multiply too fast. As the cancer cells multiply they form a tumour. Anti-cancer medicines like capecitabine work by interfering with the growth of cancer cells, which slows down the growth of the tumour. Capecitabine is prescribed in particular for colon cancer, colorectal cancer, and stomach cancer. It is also sometimes prescribed for breast cancer.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking capecitabine it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you have an infection or feel particularly unwell.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works or how your kidneys work.
  • If you have a heart condition or if you have an irregular heartbeat.
  • If you have a problem with your nervous system.
  • If you have too much sugar in your blood (diabetes mellitus).
  • If you have been told by a doctor that the level of any electrolyte (such as calcium, sodium, potassium) in your blood is either too high or too low.
  • If you have been told by a doctor that you lack certain enzymes which help remove medicines from your body.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • Before you start the treatment, read any printed information you have been given by your doctor and the printed manufacturer's leaflet from inside your pack of tablets. These will give you more information about capecitabine and will provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you may experience from taking it.
  • Capecitabine will be prescribed for you by a specialist doctor who is experienced in treating your condition. Your dose will be calculated from your weight and height, so it is important that you take the tablets exactly as your doctor tells you to. There are several strengths of tablet available and your dose may be a combination of the different strengths. It is usual to take the tablets in cycles of two doses every day (morning and evening) for 14 days, followed by a seven-day break. This 21-day cycle is then repeated over a number of months. Your dose will be printed on the label of the pack of tablets to remind you about what the doctor said to you.
  • Swallow the tablets with a drink of water. You should take the tablet within 30 minutes of eating a meal. It will help you to remember to take your doses regularly if you take them after the same meals each day, usually breakfast and dinner.
  • If you forget to take a dose, make sure you remember to take the next dose when it is due and let your doctor know about the missed dose. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.
  • You must try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor or hospital. This is so your doctor can check on your progress. You will need to have regular blood tests and check-ups during your treatment with capecitabine.
  • It is important that you do not get pregnant or father a child while you are taking capecitabine. Make sure you have discussed with your doctor which types of contraception are suitable for you and your partner. Many anti-cancer treatments are associated with reduced fertility (particularly in men), so you may also want to ask your doctor for family planning advice if you would like to have children in the future.
  • While you are taking capecitabine and for six months after you have stopped the treatment, do not have any immunisations (vaccinations) without talking to your specialist doctor first. Capecitabine lowers your body's resistance and there is a risk that you will get an infection from some vaccines.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines. For example, you should not take vitamin preparations which contain folic acid.

Medicines used to treat cancer can have a number of side-effects, some of which can be delayed for several days or weeks after taking the medicine. Most chemotherapy medicines can lower the number of white cells in your blood, which increases the risk of you getting an infection. While you are taking capecitabine you should take precautions to reduce the risk of getting an infection - you can do this by avoiding being with people who you know have an infection. If you think you are getting a sore throat or if you have a high temperature, please let your doctor know as soon as possible so that you can get some treatment straightaway.

Your doctor will discuss with you the possibility of unwanted side-effects from your treatment. The table below contains some of the most common side-effects associated with capecitabine, although not everyone experiences these. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your tablets. Please let your doctor know if you experience any of the following:

Very common capecitabine side-effects (these affect more than 1 in 10 people)
What can I do if I experience this?
Sore hands and feet, rash, dry itchy skinLet your doctor know about this as soon as possible
DiarrhoeaDrink plenty of water so that you don't become lacking in fluid in the body (dehydrated). If you have four bowel movements a day more than what is normal for you, you must let your doctor know as soon as possible, as your dose may need adjusting for a short while
Feeling or being sick, tummy (abdominal) pain, lack of appetiteEat simple meals (avoid rich or spicy foods). If this becomes troublesome, let your doctor know, as you can be prescribed an anti-sickness medicine
Feeling feverish, infections (due to changes in the number of your blood cells)Let your doctor know about this as soon as possible
Feeling tired or weakDo not drive or use tools or machines while affected
Dry or sore mouthTry chewing sugar-free gum or sucking sugar-free sweets. Also, let your doctor know about this, as there are preparations available which may be of help

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are taking.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • Manufacturer's PIL, Xeloda® 500 mg Tablets; Roche Products Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated January 2015.
  • British National Formulary; 69th Edition (Mar 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
13937 (v2)
Last Checked:
29/09/2015
Next Review:
28/09/2018
The Information Standard - certified member

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