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Cytarabine Patient Information Including Side Effects

Brand Names: Cytosar-U, Tarabine PFS

Generic Name: cytarabine (Pronunciation: sye TAR a been)

What is cytarabine (Cytarabine)?

Cytarabine is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Cytarabine is used to treat certain types of leukemia (blood cancers). Cytarabine is also used to treat leukemia associated with meningitis.

Cytarabine will not treat an active meningitis infection that has already developed in the body.

Cytarabine may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

What are the possible side effects of cytarabine (Cytarabine)?

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Tell your caregivers at once if you have a serious side effect such as:

  • fever with nausea, vomiting, and headache;
  • problems with your vision or hearing;
  • loss of movement in any part of your body;
  • loss of bowel or bladder control;
  • fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms, sores in your mouth and throat;
  • pale skin, feeling light-headed or short of breath, rapid heart rate, trouble concentrating;
  • confusion, unusual thoughts or behavior;
  • trouble standing or walking,
  • seizure (convulsions);
  • pain or burning when you urinate;
  • feeling like you might pass out; or
  • feeling very thirsty or hot, being unable to urinate, heavy sweating, or hot and dry skin.

Less serious side effects may include:

  • drowsiness, dizziness, weakness, memory problems;
  • constipation, diarrhea, mild nausea;
  • back pain, pain in your arms or legs;
  • headache; or
  • trouble sleeping (insomnia).

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Read the Cytarabine (cytarabine) Side Effects Center for a complete guide to possible side effects

What is the most important information I should know about cytarabine (Cytarabine)?

Cytarabine can cause serious side effects on your brain or central nervous system that may not be reversible. Cytarabine is usually given together with a steroid medication to help lessen these side effects. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of using this medication.

Do not use cytarabine if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby.

Before you receive cytarabine, tell your doctor if you have a seizure disorder or a history of head injury or brain tumor.

Cytarabine can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections. Your blood may need to be tested often. Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding injury. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

Do not receive a "live" vaccine while you are being treated with cytarabine. The live vaccine may not work as well during this time, and may not fully protect you from disease.

Side Effects Centers

Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration


You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


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