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:
Anti-nauseants, also called anti-emetics, are given to help treat nausea and vomiting that may be caused by
surgery to treat cancer. Prochlorperazine can be taken by mouth, injection, or a suppository. Ondansetron and granisetron can be taken orally or as injections; metoclopramide is usually given by injection.
Side effects may include:
Corticosteroids help to minimize inflammation and to relieve pain due to inflammation. You may experience pain and inflammation for a variety of reasons, such as:
Common side effects include:
Narcotics 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.
Percocet and Vicodin are examples of a combination medication. A narcotic analgesic and acetaminophen used together may provide better pain relief than either medicine 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 physician 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 filgrastim and epoetin are given by injection in your doctor's office.
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
stroke. This risk is especially important for patients with cardiovascular disease or risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
Ballantyne JC, Mao J. Opioid therapy for chronic pain.
N Engl J Med. 2003 Nov 13; 349:1943-1953.
FDA's MedWatch safety alerts: March 2009. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at:
http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm142815.htm. Published March 23, 2009. Accessed August 4, 2009.
Gourlay DL, Heit HA, Almahrezi A. Universal precautions in pain medicine: a rational approach to the treatment of chronic pain.
Pain Med. 2005;6(2):107.
Larson AM, Polson J, Fontana RJ, et al; Acute Liver Failure Study Group. Acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: results of a United States multicenter, prospective study.
National Cancer Institute website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung. Accessed October 7, 2008.
United States Pharmacopeial Convention.
USP DI. 21st ed. Englewood, CO: Micromedex; 2001.
White WB.Cardiovascular risk, hypertension, and NSAIDs.
Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2007 Apr;9(1):36-43.
Wong M, Chowienczyk P, Kirkham B.Cardiovascular issues of COX-2 inhibitors and NSAIDs.
Aust Fam Physician. 2005 Nov;34(11):945-948.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Igor Puzanov, 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.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.