The American Cancer Society defines oral chemotherapy as any drug that is taken by mouth to treat cancer 1. The majority of chemotherapy drugs are administered intravenously, but the oral chemotherapeutic drugs are just as effective. Since most drugs are not given in oral form, not all types of cancer have oral chemotherapies available. Not all chemotherapy drugs, oral or intravenous, are taken on the same schedule, and your doctor will tell you when to take the medications prescribed to you.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Capecitabine (brand name Xeloda)

Capecitabine is used to treat breast cancer and colon and colorectal cancers. Possible side effects include nausea and vomiting, numbness or tingling in the extremities, increased fatigue, skin irritation and mouth sores.

Oral Cyclophosphamide (brand name Cytoxan)

Cyclophosphamide is used for a wide variety of cancers. These include:

  • breast cancer
  • leukemia
  • cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  • lung cancer
  • multiple myeloma
  • ovarian cancer

This drug can cause hair loss, nausea and vomiting, mouth sores and loss of appetite, according to the American Cancer Society 1.

Etoposide (brand name Toposar)

Etoposide is used to treat prostate cancer, Kaposi's sarcoma, small cell lung cancer and lymphoma. Side effects may include increased risk of infection, hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting.

Idarubicin (brand name Idamycin)

This oral chemotherapy drug is used to treat breast cancer and acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. This drug may cause an increased risk of infection, nausea and vomiting, skin rash and hair loss.

Vinorelbine (brand name Navelbine)

Vinorelbine is used to treat non-small cell lung cancer and breast cancer. Side effects can include constipation, fatigue and weakness, increased risk of infection and nausea and vomiting.

Imatinib (brand name Gleevec)

Imatinib is used to treat chronic myeloid leukemia. The drug may cause:

  • weight gain
  • diarrhea
  • muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • stomach pain
  • skin rash

Future Directions

Due to the constantly changing nature of science and medicine, this is not a comprehensive list of all oral chemotherapeutic drugs. Various clinical trials exploring different regimens of chemotherapy and different treatments are ongoing.