Capecitabine (Xeloda) is an antimetabolite chemotherapy medicine used to treat metastatic breast cancer that grows despite treatment with certain other anticancer medicines.


How capecitabine works

Capecitabine is an inactive form of 5-fluorouracil, a chemotherapy medicine. When you take capecitabine, it stays inactive until it reaches your liver. Your liver and the enzymes in the cancer cells then convert the capecitabine to its active form. The active 5-fluorouracil then kills the cancer cells when they try to divide.


Who gets capecitabine

Capecitabine alone or with docetaxel (Taxotere) or paclitaxel (Taxol) are three of the many chemotherapy regimens that can be used to treat metastatic breast cancer. Capecitabine can also be used with lapatinib (Tykerb) for metastatic HER2-positive breast cancers. If you need radiation therapy, capecitabine is usually used after you finish your radiation regimen. This is because it’s not yet clear how safe it is to give capecitabine and radiation at the same time in routine use.


How capecitabine is given

Capecitabine is given as a pill two times per day for 7 to 14 days followed by one week off, but your dose and schedule may be different.


Side effects and things to remember

Common side effects include:

Less common side effects include:

Before starting capecitabine, tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the counter-medicines. You should not become pregnant while you are taking capecitabine.

If you have pain or diarrhea that bothers you, talk to your doctor right away. You may be able to take a lower dose of capecitabine that makes you more comfortable while keeping the treatment just as effective.

Your doctor, pharmacist or nurse can help you manage your side effects. You can also go to our section on Side Effects for more information.


Related resources


Stay connected

Sign up to receive emotional support, medical insight, personal stories, and more, delivered to your inbox weekly.


Reviewed and updated: May 2, 2024

Reviewed by: Laura M. Spring, MD


Was this page helpful?