Gemcitabine Side Effects | The Patient Story

Gemcitabine Side Effects & Patient Stories

What Is Gemcitabine?

Gemcitabine (Gemzar) belongs to the class of chemotherapy drugs and is used in the treatment of various cancer types, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, non-small cell lung cancertesticular cancer, and others.

patient receiving chemo

What Is the Gemcitabine Mechanism of Action?

Gemcitabine works against cancer cells by interrupting the DNA synthesis process. Since this DNA process is interrupted, the cancer cells cannot split and then they die.

Gemcitabine Side Effects

If you or a loved one want to prepare and learn about side effects of gemcitabine (Gemzar), many patients often receive the drug in combination with other chemo drugs. Some of the more commonly reported gemcitabine side effects include, but are not limited to:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • loss of appetite
  • sores in the mouth and throat
  • hair loss
  • headache
  • sore or painful muscles
  • pain, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • swelling, pain, redness, or burning at the injection site

Gemcitabine (Gemzar) Patient Experiences

Here’s what cancer patients had to say about their experiences with gemicitabine:


When I relapsed, I received high-dose chemotherapy that was done inpatient. This treatment was called IGEV and was done four times over the course of three months.

IGEV chemotherapy was hard my hemoglobin fell to 5.0 (normal is 12 to 14) so I was fatigued, had weakness, and was unable to eat at times.

I had severe nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, and low blood counts. I had to inject myself everyday for a week with Neupogen to make sure my white blood cell counts (WBC) were high and I was not at risk for infections.I ate small meals and always made sure I was not in crowded places when my blood counts were low.

Fabiola L. (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Classical, Stage 2BX [Bulky Disease], Relapse)

→ Read more on Fabiola’s story


I started chemotherapy. I had two medications, Gemcitabine and a combination of Gemcitabine and Taxotere. I would have Gemcitabine on week one. It was a one-and-a-half-hour dose.

A week later, I would have another dose of Gemcitabine and an hour of Taxotere. Taxotere was my aggressive chemo, and it caused the majority of the side effects – the hair loss, nausea, all these different things.

Nicole B. (Soft Tissue Sarcoma, Stage 3, Undifferentiated Pleomorphic Sarcoma [UPS])

→ Read more on Nicole’s story

All Gemcitabine (Gemzar) Patient Stories

Nicole B., Undifferentiated Pleomorphic Sarcoma, Stage 3

Cancer Details: <5% of adult sarcomas
1st Symptoms: severe intolerance to food, nausea
Treatment: Cholecystectomy, Chemo (Gemcitabine and Taxotere), Whipple surgery

Kayla T., Hodgkin's, Stage 3A

Cancer details: Possibly misdiagnosed the first time; later diagnosed as grey zone lymphoma
1st Symptoms: Pulled muscle in chest
Treatment: ABVD chemo, radiation, high-dose chemo, stem cell transplant

Fabiola L., Hodgkin's, Stage 2BX

Cancer details: Stage 2 with bulky disease, relapsed after 1st chemo. Remission after 2nd chemo & bone marrow transplant
1st Symptoms: Shortness of breath, dry cough, fatigue
Treatment: ABVD chemo (6 cycles), IGEV chemo, bone marrow transplant, BEAM chemo, brentuximab

Alison R., Partially Differentiated DCIS, Stage 4 Metastatic

Cancer details: Triple positive = positive for HER2, estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR)
1st Symptoms: Lump in underarm/breast
Treatment: Chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, targeted therapy

Erin C., IDC, Triple Negative, Stage 2B/4 Metastatic

Cancer details: Triple negative doesn’t have any receptors commonly found in breast cancer making it harder to treat
1st Symptoms: Pain in breast
Treatment: Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation