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Topotecan chemotherapy information sheet



This leaflet provides information about a course of chemotherapy called topotecan. The leaflet will explain what this means and when and how it will be given. It will also tell you about common side effects you may experience. Contact telephone numbers and details of how to get more information about Topotecan are at the end of this booklet.


You should read this leaflet alongside the ' General information for patients undergoing chemotherapy' leaflet. If you have not received this leaflet, ask your nurse for a copy.



What is topotecan?

Topotecan is a chemotherapy treatment given through a drip.


Why am I getting topotecan

Your doctor has prescribed this chemotherapy because it is effective in treating the type of cancer you have.




How often will I get Topotecan?

In order for this treatment to be most effective, it is given at specific time intervals. These are called circles. It is usual to have a cycle of topotecan chemotherapy every three weeks for up to four cycles. Your doctor will discuss with you the exact number of cycles you will have.


In each three-week cycle, you will be given Topotecan for five consecutive days before having a 16-day break.



How often will I see the specialist team?

You will see the specialist team before each cycle. You will have regular blood tests and we will check how you are feeling and discuss any problems you may have. This is to enable us to check how the chemotherapy is affecting you. If your blood results are satisfactory, you will be prescribed chemotherapy.



How long will I be in hospital?

Your chemotherapy appointment will usually be on a different day to your clinic appointment. The chemotherapy treatment will take about an hour. You should allow an extra 30 minutes for your first treatment.


You are welcome to bring someone to stay with you during your treatment. There is limited space in the waiting areas and the treatment room, so there is usually no room for more than one person. Treatment areas are not suitable for small children.

How will my chemotherapy be given?

Your chemotherapy is given through a drip (cannula) into a vein in the back of your hand or arm. It may be possible to leave the cannula in place for a few days if you would prefer not to have a new one every day. Alternatively, we would suggest that a small tube called a PICC is inserted into a large vein in your upper arm. It will remain in place throughout your treatment. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this further with you.


We have a leaflet that tells you more about PICC lines. Ask your nurse if you would like a copy.



Where will my treatment be given?

The first day of each treatment cycle is spent in one of the day case treatment areas in Velindre.


The treatment can be given on the remaining four days in Velindre or it could be possible for us to arrange for specialist nurses to give this treatment at home. We will discuss this with you.



What are the possible side effects?

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



Loss of hair

Your hair may thin with topotecan chemotherapy. We have a leaflet that explains more about coping with hair loss. Ask your nurse if you would like a copy.



Nausea and vomiting are now uncommon as we will give you anti-nausea medicines, which are usually very effective. If you vomit more than once in 24 hours, even though you regularly take anti-nausea medication when you are at home after your chemotherapy treatment, contact Velindre Cancer Center for advice. The phone number is on page 7.



Your risk of catching infections will be higher as this treatment can reduce your white blood cells which help fight infections. Contact Velindre Cancer Center immediately if you develop any signs of infection, for example, flu-like symptoms or a temperature above 37.5° centigrade. The telephone number is on page 7 of this leaflet.



You may get diarrhea with this chemotherapy. If this happens, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Medicine is available to control diarrhoea. If you open your bowel four times or more than is normal for you over a 24 hour period, contact Velindre Cancer Center immediately. The telephone number is on page 7 of this leaflet.


Fatigue and fatigue

Chemotherapy treatment can make you feel more tired than usual. It is important to listen to your body and rest if you need to but you should continue with your normal activities if you feel able to do so. For some people, a little light exercise can be beneficial as well as rest.


Sore mouth

Your mouth may be sore or you may notice small ulcers. Follow the advice on looking after your mouth in the general chemotherapy leaflet. Your doctor may give you a prescription for mouthwash or medication to prevent or clear up any infection.



Other information

This chemotherapy can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. The best thing to do is to avoid strong sunlight, wear a hat and use sunscreen.














Patient information leaflets from manufacturers

Copies of patient information leaflets from drug manufacturers are available from Felindre Pharmacy, or on the internet at These leaflets give detailed information about individual drugs. We do not routinely distribute them as they do not usually provide information on drug combinations and can be difficult to read. Please ask if you would like a copy.

























Contact telephone numbers


Felindre Cancer Center 029 2061 5888

Ask for the chemotherapy pager if you get sick at home and need immediate attention at any time of the day or night. For example, you should call in the case of:

  • If you vomit more than once over a 24 hour period
  • That you have a temperature of 37.5°C or higher
  • That you have diarrhoea



Pharmaceutical department 029 2061 5888 ext. 6223

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



Cancer helpline

Tenovus freephone 0808 808 1010

Monday – Friday 9am – 4.30pm for general cancer enquiries








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






























Reviewed June 2011