Common Chemotherapy Drugs and Side Effects

 

There are over 50 chemotherapy drugs that are commonly used. The following table gives examples of some chemotherapy drugs and their various names. It lists some of the cancer types but not necessarily all of the cancers for which they are used, and describes various side effects. Side effects may occur just after treatment (days or weeks) or they may occur later (months or years) after the chemotherapy has been given. The side effects list provided below do not comprise an all-inclusive list. Other side effects are possible.

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his/her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any/all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

Chemotherapy Drug Possible Side Effects
(Not all side effects are listed. Some of those listed may be short-term side effects; others are long-term side effects.)

carboplatin
(Paraplatin)

  • usually given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the ovary, head and neck, and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • confusion
  • nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (usually a short-term side effect occurring the first 24 to 72 hours following treatment)

cisplatin
(Platinol, Platinol-AQ)

  • usually given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the bladder, ovary, and testicles
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • allergic reaction, including a rash and/or labored breathing
  • nausea and vomiting that usually occurs for 24 hours or longer
  • ringing in ears and hearing loss
  • fluctuations in blood electrolytes
  • kidney damage

cyclophosphamide
(Cytoxan, Neosar)

  • can be given intravenously (IV) or orally
  • used for lymphoma, breast cancer, and ovarian carcinoma
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • decreased appetite
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • bladder damage
  • fertility impairment
  • lung or heart damage (with high doses)
  • secondary malignancies (rare)

docetaxel
(Taxotere)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for breast cancer, lung, and prostate
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • decreased appetite
  • hair thinning
  • rash
  • numbness and tingling in hands and feet

doxorubicin
(Adriamycin)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for breast cancer, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • mouth ulcers
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • heart damage

erlotinib
(Tarceva)

  • given orally
  • used for non small cell lung cancer
  • rash and other skin changes
  • diarrhea

etoposide
(VePesid)

  • can be given intravenously (IV) or orally
  • used for cancers of the lung, testicles, leukemia, and lymphoma
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • allergic reaction
  • mouth ulcers
  • low blood pressure (during administration)
  • decreased appetite
  • diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • bronchospasm
  • flu-like symptoms

fluorouracil
(5-FU)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the colon, breast, stomach, and head and neck
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • diarrhea
  • mouth ulcers
  • photosensitivity
  • dry skin

gemcitabine
(Gemzar)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the pancreas, breast, ovary, and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fever and flu-like symptoms
  • rash

imatinib mesylate
(Gleevec)

  • given orally
  • used for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST)
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fluid retention (swelling around ankles, eyes)
  • muscle cramps
  • diarrhea
  • gastrointestinal bleeding
  • rash

irinotecan
(Camptosar)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the colon and rectum
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss (reversible)

methotrexate
(Folex, Mexate, Amethopterin)

  • may be given intravenously (IV), intrathecally (into the spinal column), or orally
  • used for cancers of the breast, lung, blood, bone, and lymph system
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mouth ulcers
  • skin rashes and photosensitivity
  • dizziness, headache, or drowsiness
  • kidney damage (with a high-dose therapy)
  • liver damage
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • seizures

paclitaxel
(Taxol, Abraxane)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used with cancers of the breast, ovary, and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • allergic reaction
  • nausea and vomiting
  • loss of appetite
  • change in taste
  • thin or brittle hair
  • joint pain (short term)
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes

sorafinib
(Nexavar)

  • given orally
  • used for advanced kidney cancer
  • high blood pressure (during first few weeks of treatment)
  • rash, other skin changes
  • diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • hair loss
  • nausea and vomiting

sunitinib
(Sutent)

  • given orally
  • used for gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) and kidney cancer
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • mouth ulcers
  • upset stomach
  • skin changes, including skin discoloration and rash
  • fatigue
  • high blood pressure
  • bleeding
  • swelling
  • taste disturbance

topotecan
(Hycamtin)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for cancers of the ovary and lung
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • nausea and vomiting

vincristine
(Oncovin, Vincasar PFS)

  • usually given intravenously (IV)
  • used for leukemia and lymphoma
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes
  • weakness
  • loss of reflexes
  • jaw pain
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • constipation or abdominal cramping

vinblastine
(Velban)

  • given intravenously (IV)
  • used for lymphoma and cancers of the testis and head and neck
  • decrease in blood cell counts
  • hair loss (reversible)
  • constipation or abdominal cramping
  • jaw pain
  • numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes
This content was last reviewed August 15, 2010 by Dr. Reshma L. Mahtani.
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