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Topotecan is available as a pill you can swallow or as an intravenous (IV) medicine.

How It Works

Topotecan is a topoisomerase inhibitor that stops the growth of cancer cells by preventing cell division.

Why It Is Used

Topotecan is used to treat endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and lung cancer.

How Well It Works

Topotecan is an effective antitumor medicine. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Fever, chills, body aches or flu symptoms.
  • Severe diarrhea with fever or stomach pain.
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Unusual weakness.
  • White patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips, or other signs of infection.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Decreased white blood cell counts. Red blood cell counts and platelet counts can also be reduced.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Changes in liver function tests.

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

What To Think About

Topotecan should only be administered under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

Do not use this medicine if you have:

And do not use this medicine if:

  • You have serious bone marrow depression and your blood cell count is low.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding.

While you are taking this medicine, don't get any "live" vaccines. Also, stay away from anyone who has recently had a live vaccine.

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


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ross Berkowitz, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised February 1, 2011

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