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Cytarabine (By injection)

Cytarabine (sye-TAYR-a-been)

Treats leukemia.

Brand Name(s):

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used:

This medicine is not right for everyone. You should not receive it if you had an allergic reaction to cytarabine, or if you are pregnant.

How to Use This Medicine:


  • Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
  • Your doctor will prescribe your exact dose and tell you how often it should be given. This medicine is given as a shot under your skin, into a muscle, or into a vein. A nurse or other trained health professional will give you this medicine.
  • Missed dose: This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose, call your doctor, home health caregiver, or treatment clinic for instructions.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid:

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Some medicines can affect how cytarabine works. Tell your doctor if you are using digoxin.

Warnings While Using This Medicine:

  • It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.
  • Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding, or if you have bone marrow problems, kidney disease, liver disease, ulcers or bleeding in your stomach or intestines, or lung problems.
  • This medicine may cause the following problems:
    • Nervous system symptoms, such as confusion or drowsiness
    • Gastrointestinal ulcers or bleeding
    • Lung problems
  • This medicine may make you bleed, bruise, or get infections more easily. Take precautions to prevent illness and injury. Wash your hands often.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine:

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Black, tarry stools or bloody diarrhea
  • Fever, chills, or sore throat
  • Numbness or tingling in your arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Severe nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Sores, ulcers, or white spots on your lips or in your mouth
  • Tenderness or swelling in your legs or feet.
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unusual bleeding, bruising, tiredness, or weakness
  • Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
  • Yellow skin or eyes

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Confusion, drowsiness
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite, stomach upset
  • Mild nausea or vomiting
  • Mild rash
  • Redness, pain, or swelling where the shot was given or the needle placed

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Last Updated: 5/1/2020

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