Debra Wood, RN
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Medications may help to either prevent or reduce side effects of treatment or to manage certain side effects once they occur. You can develop side effects from the treatment and/or from the cancer itself. Tell your doctor when you notice a new symptom, and ask her if any of these medications are appropriate for you.
Blood stem cell support drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Common names include:
Antiemetics are given to help treat nausea or vomiting that may be caused by
radiation therapy, or
surgery to treat lung cancer. Medications can be given by mouth, injection, or as a suppository.
Side effects may include:
Corticosteroids help to minimize inflammation and relieve pain due to inflammation. You may experience pain and inflammation for a variety of reasons, such as:
Common side effects include:
Opioids act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. These drugs can be very effective however, they must be used with great caution. If you are going to take one of these drugs for a long period of time, your doctor will closely monitor you.
An opioid pain reliever and acetaminophen used together may provide better pain relief than either medication used alone. There is a limit to how much acetaminophen one can take per day. Remember to discuss taking an over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol) with your healthcare team while you are taking one of the combination products.
The most common side effects of narcotics include:
During cancer treatment, blood cells can be destroyed along with cancer cells. Filgrastim helps your bone marrow make new white blood cells. White blood cells help your body fight infection. Therefore, filgrastim helps to reduce your risk of infection.
Epoetin helps your bone marrow to make new red blood cells. Low red blood cell levels can lead to
anemia. Therefore, Epoetin helps reduce your risk of anemia. Epoetin is quite effective, but it has a two-week delay between the injection and when your red blood cell count really starts to come back. It is not used as a “quick fix” for a low red blood cell count. A blood transfusion
is usually performed if you need to recover your red blood cell count more quickly.
Both medications are given by injection.
NSAIDs are used to relieve pain and inflammation. You may experience pain and inflammation for a variety of reasons, such as:
NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular thrombotic events like a
heart attack or stroke. This risk is especially important for those with cardiovascular disease or risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
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Gourlay DL, Heit HA, Almahrezi A. Universal precautions in pain medication: a rational approach to the treatment of chronic pain.
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Larson AM, Polson J, Fantana RJ, et al. Acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: results of a United States multicenter, prospective study.
Lung cancer—for patients.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
Accessed September 17, 2014.
United States Pharmacopeial Convention.
USP DI. 21st ed. Englewood, CO: Micromedex; 2001.
White WB. Cardiovascular risk, hypertension, and NSAIDs.
Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2007;9(1):36-43.
Wong M, Chowienczyk P, Kirkham B. Cardiovascular issues of COX-2 inhibitors and NSAIDs.
Aust Fam Physician. 2005;34(11):945-948.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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