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Generic Name

Mitomycin is an intravenous (IV) medicine. It is usually given once every 4 to 8 weeks. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule for this medicine.

To prevent bladder cancer from coming back (recurring), mitomycin is given through a urinary catheter directly into the bladder (intravesically) rather than intravenously.

How It Works

Mitomycin is an anti-tumour antibiotic used specifically in the treatment of cancer. It interferes with the multiplication of cancer cells.

Why It Is Used

Mitomycin slows or stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

How Well It Works

Mitomycin is an effective anti-tumour medicine. It is often combined with other cancer drugs and is used for several types of cancer, including cancer of the bladder. The type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

When mitomycin is administered directly into the bladder, it may help prevent bladder cancer from coming back.

Side Effects

Side effects, including hair loss, usually go away after you finish the course of treatment. Hair loss does not occur when mitomycin is given intravesically for bladder cancer.

Side effects of mitomycin given intravenously include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis) and a sore throat.
  • Hair loss.
  • Skin rash, sun sensitivity, and easy sunburn. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen of SPF 30 when you are outdoors, and stay out of the sun as much as possible.
  • Lung damage that results in shortness of breath, cough, or chest pain.
  • Fever.

Side effects that are common with mitomycin given through a catheter into the bladder include:

  • Decreased white blood cell counts and possibly reduced red blood cell and platelet counts.
  • Discoloured urine. Your urine may turn bluish green to purple. This is expected and can last for up to 2 days after each dose.
  • A burning feeling in the bladder.
  • Irritation if the medicine gets on the skin.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Mitomycin is administered only under the supervision of a doctor who is experienced in its use, such as a urologist or medical oncologist.

Consider the following if you are given intravenous (IV) mitomycin:

  • Use of mitomycin can damage the lung tissue. Tell your doctor if you have shortness of breath, a cough, or chest pain.
  • Mitomycin can affect your ability to have children. You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Before starting treatment, talk with your doctor about fertility issues.
  • Mitomycin can cause birth defects. Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.
  • Mitomycin can damage the tissue around a vein if it leaks into the tissue while it is being given. Tell your doctor immediately if you notice any stinging or burning around the vein while this medicine is being given.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages or take medicines that contain ASA while you are being treated with mitomycin, because these can cause bleeding in the stomach.

If mitomycin is placed in the bladder, wash your skin after you urinate. Carefully wash any area urine may have touched, including the tender tissue around the opening where urine comes out. This can help prevent irritation.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Last Revised July 5, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.