Generic Name Brand Name
capecitabine Xeloda

How It Works

Capecitabine belongs to a class of drugs called antimetabolites. It interferes with the growth of cancer cells. Capecitabine is available as tablets that are taken by mouth (oral).

Why It Is Used

Capecitabine is used to treat metastatic breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

How Well It Works

Capecitabine is an effective antitumor drug for many people. However, the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this drug slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body. One study shows that treating stage III metastatic colon cancer with capecitabine after surgery is at least as effective as treating with fluorouracil plus leucovorin after surgery. People taking capecitabine had later and less severe side effects.1

Side Effects

Side effects of capecitabine can be severe.

  • Symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as rash, swelling, or difficulty breathing.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Tingling, numbness, pain, or swelling of the hands or feet.
  • Pain, redness, swelling, or sores around the mouth.

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

What To Think About

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

When used in combination with blood-thinning drugs (anticoagulants), such as warfarin (Coumadin) or heparin, capecitabine can cause serious bleeding and death. Tell your doctor if you are taking warfarin or an other anticoagulant drug, including aspirin. If you have any unusual bleeding or bruising, call your doctor immediately.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medication. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Capecitabine can cause birth defects. Do not use this drug if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.

Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking capecitabine.

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



  1. Twelves C, et al. (2005). Capecitabine as adjuvant treatment for stage III colon cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(26): 2696–2704.

Last Updated: October 1, 2008

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