Injecting the cancer medicine cytarabine yourself
This guide gives you useful instructions and information about injecting the cancer medicine cytarabine yourself. It covers:
- how the medicine works
- general safety tips for using cytarabine
- collecting, storing and handling cytarabine
- preparing and giving yourself cytarabine injections
The aim of this guide is to help you give yourself the medicine at home. It is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or nurse.
A nurse has already shown you how to give yourself an injection under the skin (a subcutaneous injection). You and the nurse have agreed that:
- you can inject the medicine yourself
- you feel comfortable doing this
You have a phone appointment with a nurse on the day that you first need to inject cytarabine. They check that you have successfully given yourself the injection.
If you have any questions not covered in this guide or are not sure how to inject cytarabine, please contact your hospital team. They can support and help you.
About the medicine cytarabine
Cytarabine, which has the brand name cytosine arabinoside or Ara-C, is used to treat:
- acute leukaemias (cancers of the blood)
- some lymphomas (cancers of the lymph glands, which help the body to fight infection)
How the medicine works
Cytarabine is a type of chemotherapy medicine. It kills cancer cells by stopping them from making and repairing the genetic material (DNA) that they need to grow and multiply.
Side effects of cytarabine
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist explains the common side effects of cytarabine treatment.
Contact us immediately if:
- your temperature is very high, or you feel hot, shivery or shaky
- you suddenly feel unwell, even if your temperature is normal
- you have a sore throat, cough or diarrhoea, or need to pee a lot
You can call our acute oncology service on 020 7188 3754 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week).
If you get side effects or have any concerns that are not addressed in this guide, please contact your hospital.
Tips for using cytarabine safely
Here is a list of general tips for how to use cytarabine safely.
- take it in turns to inject into the left and right sides of your tummy (abdomen) or outer left and right thigh
- choose a different area of skin for each injection
- put your used syringe and needle in the yellow sharps bin with a purple lid each time that you inject and never leave them lying around
- give yourself the injection at about the same time each morning (and every afternoon if you have 2 injections a day)
- contact the chemotherapy day unit if you are not sure how to inject or would like more information
- store your medicine at room temperature between 15 and 25C and in a safe place out of the reach of children and pets
- do not put the syringe down anywhere or touch the needle with anything before injecting
- do not inject into bruised, scarred or damaged skin
- do not rub the skin after you have injected
- do not share or let anyone else use your syringes or medicines
- do not throw away any equipment or medicines in your general household waste
- do not overfill the sharps bin. The lid must be closed when the bin is full. You or your carer must return the bin to the hospital at your next visit, or contact your local council to arrange collection