As capecitabine (Xeloda®) is converted to 5-FU within tumours it can produce 5-FU-like side effects. However, diarrhoea, stomatitis, nausea, alopecia and neutropenia are significantly less frequent than with i.v. 5-FU. Hand-foot syndrome (HFS) is the only clinical adverse event occurring more often during capecitabine treatment. These findings in MCRC have also been confirmed in a large phase III trial in early stage colon cancer (X-Act adjuvant study) and phase II clinical trials in metastatic breast cancer. Because capecitabine is taken in the outpatient setting, the nurse and/or supervising clinician are responsible for educating patients how to use it correctly and on the nature/recognition/severity of adverse events. Patients need to be aware that temporary interruptions/dose modifications do not reduce the overall efficacy of capecitabine and will most likely lead to a resolution of side effects. Consequently, oncology nurses will be assuming a more significant and pivotal role in the efficient education and support of patients during home-based therapy with capecitabine.
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