Giving hope to those affected
by secondary breast cancer

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Types of Chemotherapy for Secondary Breast Cancer: Epirubicin

24th October 2021 by Claire O'Donnell Education


Epirubicin ( Pharmorubicin)

We are looking at different types of chemotherapy - how you take it and possible side-effects - and then hearing from a patient about their experience. This week it’s Epirubicin.


What is Epirubicin (Pharmorubicin)?

Epirubicin is a chemotherapy drug and it is used for many different types of cancer.

Epirubicin belongs to a group of chemotherapy drugs called anthracyclines. They damage the DNA (genetic code) in cancer cells. This stops the cancer cells from dividing or growing.


How do you take it?

You have epirubicin into your bloodstream (intravenously). Epirubicin is a red liquid.

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm or hand. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment.

When you have epirubicin depends on your cancer type. You usually have it in cycles of treatment that last 3 weeks. A cycle means that you have epirubicin, or epirubicin in combination with other cancer drugs, and then have some time with no treatment.

It can take up to 30 minutes if you have it on its own but it might take longer if you have it with other drugs.

You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

You might also have tests to check how well your heart is working. Epirubicin can weaken the heart. This isn’t very common, but doctors need to know how well your heart is working before you start.


What are the possible side effects?

  • Increased risk of infection
  • Bruising / bleeding gums or nosebleeds
  • Breathlessness and looking pale
  • Feeling or being sick
  • Hair loss
  • Red or pink urine
  • Sore mouth
  • Eye problems
  • Diarrhoea
  • Liver changes
  • Hot flushes
  • High temperature (fever)
  • Skin changes

If you experience any of these side effects, please discuss with your medical team.