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IrOxMdG 526

IrOxMdG 526

This leaflet provides information on a course of chemotherapy known as irinotecan, oxaliplatin, 5 fluorouracil (5-FU) and folinic acid.  It will explain what this is and when and how it will be given.  It will also tell you about common side effects that you may experience.  Contact telephone numbers and details of how to obtain further information on this chemotherapy are given at the end of the leaflet.

This leaflet should be read alongside the ‘General information for patients receiving chemotherapy’ leaflet.  If you haven’t received this leaflet please ask your nurse for a copy.

What is irinotecan, oxaliplatin, 5-FU and folinic acid chemotherapy?

This chemotherapy treatment consists of four drugs.  There are three chemotherapy drugs called irinotecan, oxaliplatin and 5-FU.  The other drug is called folinic acid.  This is not a chemotherapy drug but it helps the 5-FU work better. 

Together these drugs are called irinotecan, oxaliplatin and modified deGramont or IrOxMdG for short. 

Why am I having IrOxMdG chemotherapy?

Your doctor has prescribed this because it has been found to be effective in treating your type of cancer.
How often will I receive my chemotherapy?  

For the treatment to be most effective it is given at specific time intervals.  These are known as cycles.  It is usual to have a cycle of IrOxMdG every 2 weeks for up to 6 cycles. Your doctor will discuss with you the exact number of cycles you will receive.

How will my chemotherapy treatment be given?

To receive your chemotherapy you will need to have a fine tube put into a large vein in your upper arm.  This tube is called a PICC line.  Your PICC line is usually put in about a week before you start your chemotherapy.  It will stay in for the whole course of your treatment.  Your doctor will explain this to you in more detail.  We also have a leaflet that tells you more about PICC lines.

 All of your treatment will be given through a drip connected to your PICC line.    

How often will I need to come to the hospital?

To receive this chemotherapy you will need to visit the hospital 3 times in every 2 week cycle.

1st visit – Outpatient clinic appointment  

You will have blood samples taken and we will check how you are feeling and discuss any problems you may have.  This is so we can check how the chemotherapy is affecting you.  If your blood results are satisfactory, your chemotherapy will be prescribed.  This appointment is usually a few days before your chemotherapy appointment.

2nd visit - Chemotherapy appointment

At this appointment you will spend approximately 4 hours on one of the day case treatment areas.  Please allow up to an hour longer for your first visit. If you use scalp cooling your treatment time will take approximately 6 hours.  We will give you anti sickness medication and your chemotherapy in a drip. You will go home with a portable pump containing 5-FU.  We will give you information about how to look after your pump at home. 

3rd visit - Pump disconnection

This appointment is 2 days after your chemotherapy appointment.  You will return to one of the day case treatment areas to have your portable pump disconnected.  This should take about half an hour.

Can I bring relatives and friends with me? 

You are welcome to bring someone to stay with you during your treatment. Space is limited so there is not usually room for more than one person.  Treatment areas are not suitable for young children.

What are the possible side effects?

There are a number of possible side effects which can occur with this chemotherapy. The doctors, nurses and pharmacists can give you advice or answer any questions you may have.

Hair loss

You may experience hair thinning or hair loss with this chemotherapy.  This is temporary and your hair will grow back when you finish your chemotherapy.  We can arrange a wig if you would like one, please ask your nurse for more information.  

We have a leaflet on coping with hair loss.  Please ask your nurse if you would like a copy. A method known as ‘scalp cooling’ or ‘cold capping’ can sometimes be used to prevent hair loss. Using scalp cooling will extend your treatment time by one and half hours. Oxaliplatin would be given following scalp cooling. Some patients might find this uncomfortable, however following scalp cooling, because oxaliplatin causes sensitivity to the cold. 


Nausea and vomiting are uncommon these days as we will give you anti-sickness medicines which are usually extremely effective.  If you are sick more than once in 24 hours despite taking regular anti-sickness medicine when you are at home after your treatment, contact Velindre Cancer Centre for advice.  The telephone number is on page 9. 


You are at an increased risk of picking up infections because your white blood cells which help fight infections can be reduced by this treatment.  

If you develop an infection whilst your white blood cells are low, you are at risk of sepsis, this can be life threatening. 

Contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately if you develop any signs of infection, for example flu like symptoms or a temperature above 37.5°centigrade or below 35.5°centigrade.  The telephone number is on page 9.


Diarrhoea is a recognised side effect of both irinotecan and 5-FU.  This can either occur within 24 hours following treatment or from about five days after starting treatment.

Diarrhoea within 24 hours of treatment

Diarrhoea which occurs at the time of treatment or up to 24 hours after irinotecan and 5-FU can come with other symptoms.  For example sweating, stomach pains, watering eyes, blurred vision or dizziness.  The atropine injection we give you before your treatment usually stops these symptoms. 

We do not recommend that you take anti-diarrhoeal tablets with this type of diarrhoea.  If you develop diarrhoea or any of the symptoms described within the first 24 hours after treatment please contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately for advice.  The telephone number is on page 9. 

Diarrhoea starting more than 24 hours after treatment

We will have given you medication to help stop diarrhoea. These are called loperamide.  You should take these as follows:

  • Take two loperamide tablets the first time you have the diarrhoea, then one tablet every 2 hours for at least 12 hours.  You must continue to take the loperamide tablets until you have gone 12 hours without diarrhoea.  However, do not take them for more than 48 hours.
  • If the diarrhoea lasts more than 24 hours you should take the antibiotic tablets you have been given.  These are called ciprofloxacin.  Take these as directed on the box.  You should also contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately for advice.  The telephone number is on page 8.

It is important that you drink plenty of water and salty type liquids if you have diarrhoea.  These include soda water, carbonated water and soups.

Tiredness and fatigue

Chemotherapy can make you feel more tired than usual.  It is important to listen to your body and rest if you need to, but to carry out your normal activities if you feel able.  Some people find it beneficial to take gentle exercise as well as taking rest.

Sore mouth

Your mouth may become sore or you may notice small ulcers.  Please follow the advice on caring for your mouth in the general chemotherapy leaflet.  Your doctor may prescribe mouthwashes or medication to prevent or clear any infection.

Soreness to your hands and feet

You may experience mild pain, redness and swelling of your hands or feet.  If this occurs we recommend using a non perfumed cream or lotion regularly.  Please contact Velindre Cancer Centre if your hands or feet become painful.

Nerve damage in your hands and feet

Oxaliplatin may cause tingling or numbness in your fingers or toes.  85 – 95% of people experience this to some degree.  This is often triggered by exposure to cold, for example when you open the fridge or hold a cold drink.  It may make it difficult for you to do up buttons or pick up small objects.  

This usually lasts for no more than 7 days in between treatments.  If you have this problem and if it lasts longer than 7 days please tell us at your next clinic appointment.

Unpleasant feeling in your throat

Oxaliplatin causes an unpleasant sensation in the throat in a small number of patients.  This may result in a feeling of tightness in the throat or not being able to catch your breath.  This will occur at the time of treatment or within a few hours.  It may be brought on by cold so avoid ice-cold drinks for 24 hours after treatment.

We recommend that you wait for 20-30 minutes after your treatment before leaving the hospital.  You should not drive yourself home and in cold weather we recommend your friend or relative heat the car before you get into it. 

Please tell your nurse if you experience this whilst having your treatment.  If it occurs after you leave the hospital please contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately.  The telephone number is on page 8.

If this happens, try to relax, breathe out through your mouth and in through your nose.  Try to move to a warmer area and try a warm drink.  This sensation should pass quickly. It is best to relax.

Allergic type reaction

A small number of patients experience an allergic type reaction.  If this occurs you may feel hot or flushed, itchy, light-headed or generally unwell whilst receiving your oxaliplatin. This can be easily treated.  Please tell your nurse immediately if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Blood clots

A diagnosis of cancer can increase your risk of developing a blood clot (thrombosis), and having cancer treatment may increase this risk further.  It is important to tell your doctor immediately if you have symptoms such as pain, redness and swelling in your leg, or breathlessness and chest pain.  

Blood clots can be very serious.  However, most clots can usually be successfully treated with drugs to thin the blood.  Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.

Other side effects

Women sometimes find that chemotherapy treatment affects their periods.  They could become heavier, lighter or even stop altogether.  

It is important you do not become pregnant or father a child whilst having chemotherapy treatment as chemotherapy could damage the unborn baby.  

This chemotherapy can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.  It is best to avoid strong sunlight, wear a hat and use a sun block.

Very rarely people on this chemotherapy may experience heart problems such as angina or palpitations.  If you wish to discuss this further please speak to your doctor.

Sometimes cancer drugs can have very serious side effects which rarely can be life threatening. It is important to inform Velindre cancer centre if you are concerned about any side-effects.

Manufacturer’s patient information leaflets

Velindre leaflets provide information about very common and commonly reported side-effects (we are unable to list all of the common side effects), for more information regarding these and the less common side-effects please refer to the manufacturers patient information leaflets, obtained from Velindre pharmacy and/or on the internet at Sometimes patients may find these leaflets difficult to read however. Please ask if you would like a copy from your doctor or from Velindre pharmacy

Contact telephone numbers

Velindre Cancer Centre 029 2061 5888

Ask for the treatment helpline if you are unwell at home and need immediate advice at any time of the day or night. For example you should phone if you:

  • Are sick more than once in 24 hours
  • Have a temperature of 37.5°C or above or below 35.5°centigrade
  • Have diarrhoea
  • Have tightness in your throat or can’t catch your breath on the same day as treatment

Pharmacy department 029 2061 5888 ext 6223

Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm for queries about your medicines

Tenovus freephone 0808 808 1010

cancer helpline 


This information is also available in Welsh

This leaflet was written by health professionals.  The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based.  It has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients.  It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.