Patient Education Quick Reference Guide Diablo Valley Oncology/Hematology Medical Group Phone Number: 925-677-5041


Your chemotherapy treatment is called azacitidine (ay-za-SITE-i-deen) or Vidaza® (vi-DAY-za). It is commonly used to treat myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and has also been used to treat other diseases. Azacitidine kills abnormal cells in the bone marrow and helps the bone marrow produce normal blood cells.

What Do I Need to Know Before Starting Treatment?

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider about any prescription or over-the-counter products you are taking, including dietary supplements, vitamins, herbal medicines and homeopathic remedies. Use an effective birth control method while you are being treated. Azacitidine can cause harm to a fetus. Women should not become pregnant and men should not father a child during treatment. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you or your partner becomes pregnant while taking azacitidine. Avoid breastfeeding during treatment. It is not known if azacitidine passes into breast milk. Some chemotherapy drugs can cause sterility. Talk with your healthcare provider about your options if you want to have children in the future. Do not get any immunizations or vaccinations while you are being treated without the approval of your healthcare provider.

What Do I Need to Know Before Starting Azacitidine?

Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of liver disease or if you have cancer in your liver. Azacitidine can make liver problems worse. In rare cases, azacitidine can cause coma and death in patients who have liver cancer. Tell your healthcare provider if you have a history of kidney disease. The risk of side effects from azacitidine may be greater in those with poor kidney function. In rare cases, azacitidine can cause kidney failure and death. Your doctor will test your kidneys and liver while you are being treated with azacitidine, and will decide if your dose needs to be changed or if your treatment needs to be stopped. You should not take this treatment if you are allergic to azacitidine, mannitol or any components of these drugs, or if you have advanced liver cancer. Formal drug interaction studies have not been done with azacitidine, however it is important to tell your healthcare provider about any medications you are taking.

How Is the Treatment Given?

Your healthcare provider will give you your treatment by injection into a vein or an injection under the skin. The dose you receive will be based on your weight and height. Your healthcare provider will determine the number of treatments you receive. You may be given medicines to help prevent and control nausea and vomiting before you receive your treatment. These medicines may be given either by mouth or by injection into a vein. If you are given any medicine to take at home, do not share it with others. Sharing this medication with anyone else could be harmful.

When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
  • Shaking chills or fever of 100.5 degrees F or higher
  • Unusual bleeding, easy bruising or pinpoint red spots on your skin
  • Vomiting that is severe or that lasts several hours
  • Painful or frequent urination or blood in your urine
  • Diarrhea that causes an additional four bowel movements a day, diarrhea that lasts more than one day, diarrhea at night or diarrhea with fever, cramps or bloody stools
  • Irregular or rapid heart beat, chest pain, chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or feeling lightheaded
  • Inability to eat or weight loss

What Are the Possible Side Effects?

All drugs can cause side effects, but every person reacts differently to each drug. The following chart lists the possible side effects that can occur with your treatment, how to recognize and minimize symptoms and possible treatments. The side effects are grouped by how often the side effect occurs: Common (occurs in more than 25 percent of patients), Less Common (occurs in 5 to 25 percent of patients) or Rare (occurs in less than 5 percent of patients).
Side Effect How to Minimize Side Effect Possible Treatments
Diarrhea (Common)
  • Loose or watery stools several times a day
  • Abdominal cramping, gas and bloating
  • Eat small, frequent meals and bland foods— such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.
  • Avoid caffeine; alcohol; raw fruits and vegetables; raw eggs; undercooked meats; spicy, fatty and greasy foods; milk and dairy products; foods that cause gas, such as beans and other legumes; high fiber and high-fat foods; foods left un-refrigerated for more than two hours (one hour for egg dishes and cream or mayonnaise-based foods); bulk laxatives; and stool softeners.
  • Drink eight to ten glasses of clear liquids every day.
  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help treat diarrhea.
Mouth Sores and Pain (Less Common. Symptoms are generally mild.)
  • Pain, swelling and redness of the mouth, tongue and throat
  • “Coated tongue”
  • Difficulty talking, swallowing or eating
  • Bleeding ulcers and infection
  • Brush teeth two to four times a day using a soft bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use non-waxed dental floss daily.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol.
  • Sip water during the day and use sugar-free candy or gum to keep your mouth wet.
  • Eat food cold or at room temperature.
  • Eat soft or pureed food
  • Avoid food that is acidic, spicy, salty, dry or rough, such as toast.
  • You may be given medicine to help treat pain.
  • You may be given medicine to treat fungal or viral infections.
Anorexia or Appetite Loss (Less Common. Weight loss is generally minimal.)
  • Not having an appetite
  • Feeling too nauseous to eat
  • Metallic or medicinal taste
  • Change in taste causing dislike for certain foods
  • Try eating six to eight small meals or snacks each day instead of three larger meals.
  • Vary your diet and try new foods and recipes.
  • Take a walk before meals, when possible. This may make you feel hungrier.
  • Eat with friends or family. When eating alone, listen to the radio or watch TV.
  • Cook dinners ahead of time and freeze them in small portions so that cooking smells are minimized.
  • Let others help with food, but ask that foods be prepared in small portions that can be frozen. And don’t hesitate to let them know which foods to avoid.
  • Add mild spices to change flavor.
  • It might be helpful to have a program, such as Meals on Wheels, deliver food to you.
Rash (Less Common. Symptoms are generally mild.)
  • Usually mild and short-lived
  • Generally appears on the arms and trunk (occasionally on the face)
  • May be itchy
  • May appear as a flat, discolored area on the skin or as a small raised bump
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to heat.
  • Use creams or moisturizers regularly. Try wearing cotton gloves on your hands.
  • Avoid using perfume, cologne or aftershave since these products can be irritating to the skin.
  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe creams (mild steroids, antihistamines or antibiotics) to help treat the rash.
  • The rash may improve on its own without any treatment.

What Are the Other Possible Side Effects?

The chart below lists additional side effects found with this treatment. It does not list all possible side effects. For more information, talk with your healthcare provider.  

Common Side Effects

  • Injection site reactions
  • Shortness of breath
  Less Common Side Effects
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Joint, muscle or abdominal pain
  • Infections (sinus, pneumonia, or upper respiratory)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Indigestion
  • Fatigue or general discomfort
  • Chest pain
  • Low blood pressure
  Rare Side Effects
  • Dry skin