Irinotecan (Camptosar)

Irinotecan injection must be given under the supervision of a doctor who is experienced in giving chemotherapy medications for cancer.

You may experience the following symptoms while you are receiving a dose of irinotecan or for up to 24 hours afterward: runny nose, increased saliva, shrinking pupils (black circles in the middle of the eyes), watery eyes, sweating, flushing, diarrhea (sometimes called ‘early diarrhea’), and stomach cramps. Tell your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms. Your doctor can give you medication to prevent or treat these symptoms.

You may also experience severe diarrhea (sometimes called ”late diarrhea”) more than 24 hours after you receive irinotecan. This type of diarrhea can be life threatening since it can last a long time and lead to dehydration, infection, kidney failure, and other problems. Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had a bowel obstruction (blockage in your intestine). Tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any of the following medications: other chemotherapy medications for cancer; diuretics (‘water pills’); or laxatives such as bisacodyl (Dulcolax) or senna (in Correctol, Ex-Lax, Peri-Colace, Senokot).

Important facts

Before you begin your treatment with irinotecan, talk to your doctor about what to do if you have late diarrhea. Your doctor will probably tell you to keep loperamide (Imodium AD) on hand so that you can begin to take it right away if you develop late diarrhea. Your doctor will probably tell you to take loperamide at regular intervals throughout the day and night. Be sure to follow your doctor’s directions for taking loperamide; these will be different than the directions printed on the package label of loperamide. Your doctor will also tell you which foods you should eat and which foods you should avoid to control diarrhea during your treatment. Drink plenty of fluids and follow this diet carefully.

Call your doctor right away the first time you have diarrhea during your treatment. Also call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: fever (temperature higher than 100.4°F); shaking chills; black or bloody stools; diarrhea that does not stop within 24 hours; lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting; or severe nausea and vomiting that stops you from drinking anything. Your doctor will watch you carefully and may treat you with fluids or antibiotics if needed.

Irinotecan may cause a decrease in the number of blood cells made by your bone marrow. Tell your doctor if you have or have ever had a blood disease or Gilbert’s syndrome (decreased ability to break down bilirubin, a natural substance in the body) and if you are being treated with radiation to your stomach or pelvis (area between the hip bones) or if you have ever been treated with this type of radiation. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: fever, chills, cough, or other signs of infection; shortness of breath; fast heartbeat; headache; dizziness; pale skin; confusion; extreme tiredness, or unusual bleeding or bruising.

Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain tests to check your body’s response to irinotecan.

Talk to your doctor about the risks of using irinotecan.

The basics

Irinotecan (brand name-Camptosar) is an FDA-approved treatment for colon or rectal cancer (cancer that begins in the large intestine).

Irinotecan is in a class of antineoplastic medications called topoisomerase I inhibitors. It works by stopping the growth of cancer cells.

Let us walk you through the key things you need to know about irinotecan

How should I take Irinotecan (Camptosar)

Irinotecan (Camptosar) comes as a liquid to be given over 90 minutes intravenously (into a vein) by a doctor or nurse. It is usually given not more often than once a week, according to a schedule that alternates one or more weeks when you receive irinotecan with one or more weeks when you do not receive the medication. Your doctor will choose the schedule that will work best for you.

Patient getting IV chemotherapy

Your doctor may need to delay your treatment and adjust your dose if you experience certain side effects. Be sure to tell your doctor how you feel during your irinotecan treatment.

Your doctor may give you medication to prevent nausea, and vomiting (emesis) before you receive each dose of irinotecan. Your doctor may also give you other medication(s) to prevent or treat other side effects.

Do not stop taking treatment without talking to your doctor. You can help them by tracking your side effects in Ankr.

What special precautions should I follow?

Before receiving irinotecan (Camptosar)

  • tell your doctor about your allergies
  • tell your doctor about other intakes
  • tell your doctor if you have or have ever had any disease, symptom, or treatment
  • tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or plan to father a child. Talk to your doctor about methods of birth control that will work for you.

While you are on irinotecan (Camptosar)

  • If you or your partner become pregnant while receiving irinotecan, call your doctor. Irinotecan may harm the fetus.
  • tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding. You should not breastfeed while you are receiving an irinotecan injection and for seven days after your final dose.
  • if you are having surgery, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist that you are receiving irinotecan.
  • Do not drive a car or operate machinery until you know how this medication affects you.
  • talk to your doctor before you receive any vaccinations during your treatment with irinotecan.

What special dietary instructions should I follow?

Your doctor will tell you about a special diet to follow to help control diarrhea (Dysentery) during your treatment. Follow these instructions carefully.

Talk to your doctor about eating grapefruit and drinking grapefruit juice while receiving this medicine.

What are the side effects of Irinotecan Hydrochloride?

Serious side effects

Some people who received irinotecan (camptosar) developed blood clots in their legs, lungs, brains, or hearts. There is not enough information to tell whether irinotecan caused the blood clots. Talk to your doctor about the risks of receiving irinotecan.

Irinotecan (Camptosar) may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while receiving this medication. If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

Use the free Ankr platform or Ankr app to track your symptoms.

In case of an emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.

Symptoms of overdose may include:

Brand names

  • Camptosar®
Other names
  • CPT-11

Last Revised – 06/15/2023, FDA updated- 04/15/2020, SG

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DISCLAIMER: No part of this content constitutes medical advice, opinion, or should be used for medical decision making without consultation with a licenced medical practitioner and under a patient-provider relationship. All information on the website is provided without any claims of accuracy. For full terms and conditions, visit this link. Content curated by the Ankr team.

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