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What is Hexalen®?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hexalen® is a brand name of the chemotherapy medication altretamine. In the United States, it is available by prescription only. A doctor may prescribe it to treat ovarian cancer, often when other treatments have been unsuccessful. Hexalen® is taken orally, or by mouth.

This type of medication is classified as an alkylating agent. That means that it works by interrupting the cycle of cell division that allows the spread of cancer. Since this chemotherapy drug cannot differentiate between normal and cancerous cells, patients will likely experience side effects as healthy cells are also adversely affected.

It is important for patients to take this drug exactly as prescribed. Hexalen® should be taken immediately after meals or snacks. Doctors will typically instruct a patient to take it four times per day, and the dosage is tailored to each individual, depending on his or her body size. People must avoid taking more than their prescribed dosages, as this can increase the risk of side effects and will not advance treatment.

While taking Hexalen®, patients must go to regularly scheduled appointments with their physicians as well. The doctor will evaluate the treatment's progress and make any adjustments in the medication that may be necessary. He will periodically order blood tests as well to ensure the general health of the patient.

People taking Hexalen® or any other chemotherapy drug should take care of their general health. Limiting alcohol consumption is advised. Patients also should refrain from operating machinery or driving until they know if Hexalen® makes them dizzy. They will also be more susceptible to bruising and bleeding, so taking care around sharp objects is warranted.

Since the immune system is suppressed, patients should avoid being vaccinated without a doctor's approval. Likewise, they should refrain from taking aspirin unless a physician says it is all right to do so. Patients also should inform their doctors of all other medications and supplements they take.

Some side effects from Hexalen® are fairly common, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea as well as loss of appetite. Less common side effects may include mood changes, including depression; stomach cramping; and dizziness. Some patients may experience weakness; sleepiness; or peripheral neuropathy, which causes tingling or numbness in one's toes or fingers.

More serious side effects should be reported to a doctor immediately, even if they occur hours after taking the medication. These include chills and a fever of 100.5°F (about 38°C) or higher. These symptoms are possible indicators of an infection.

Other serious side effects that warrant a visit to the doctor include extreme fatigue, unusual bleeding or bruising, and blood in the urine or stool. Black or tarry stools, persistent nausea and vomiting, and frequent diarrhea, as well as confusion and excessive sleepiness are causes for concern as well and should be checked by a physician. Patients should keep a record of all their side effects while taking Hexalen® or any other chemotherapy drug so a doctor can make a more informed treatment adjustment.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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