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Cytarabine is given
intravenously. Sometimes it is given as a shot under
the skin or directly into the spinal fluid. It can be given in a low, average,
or high dose.
Cytarabine is classified as an
antimetabolite. It kills cancer cells by interfering with the way they
Cytarabine is used to treat
acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) and
acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). It is sometimes
used to treat
non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and some types of
Cytarabine is an effective antitumor
drug. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how well this
drug slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.
Cytarabine is often combined with other drugs.
Cytarabine is often given with another medicine called dexamethasone. This is done to prevent a possibly fatal side effect called chemical arachnoiditis. This causes symptoms that include nausea, vomiting, headache, and fever. Your doctor will watch you closely when you are given cytarabine.
Other side effects that are common with cytarabine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
Cytarabine should be used only
under the supervision of a
medical oncologist or
You may not be able to get
pregnant or father a child after taking this drug. Discuss this with your
doctor before starting treatment.
Cytarabine can cause birth
defects. Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or wish to become
pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.
December 17, 2010
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology
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