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How It Works

Capecitabine belongs to a class of drugs called antimetabolites. It interferes with the growth of cancer cells. Capecitabine is available as tablets that are taken by mouth (oral).

Why It Is Used

Capecitabine is used to treat cancer, such as metastatic breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

How Well It Works

Capecitabine is an effective antitumor drug for many people. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this drug slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body. Studies show that treating colorectal cancer with capecitabine after surgery is at least as effective as treating with fluorouracil plus leucovorin after surgery, with fewer side effects.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes or belly pain.
  • Tingling, numbness, pain, or swelling of the hands or feet. This is called hand-foot syndrome.
  • Swelling and redness of the lining of your mouth (stomatitis).

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Upset stomach and indigestion.
  • Fever.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

When used in combination with blood-thinning drugs (anticoagulants), such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin), capecitabine can cause serious bleeding and death. Tell your doctor if you are taking an anticoagulant drug. If you have any unusual bleeding or bruising, call your doctor immediately.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Libutti SK, et al. (2011). Cancer of the colon. In VT DeVita Jr. et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 9th ed., pp. 1084–1126. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerKenneth Bark, MD - Surgery, Colon and Rectal
Last RevisedSeptember 5, 2012

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