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 healthcare provider.
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 them 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 and vomiting that may be caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery to treat cancer.
Possible 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.
Percocet and vicodin are examples of combination medication. An opioid analgesic and acetaminophen used together may provide better pain relief than either medication used alone. In some cases, lower doses of each medication are necessary to achieve pain relief. There is a limit to how much acetaminophen one can take per day. Remember to discuss taking an over-the-counter acetaminophen with your doctor while you taking one of the combination products.
The most common side effects of opioids 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. This may be important when you have anemia, or low red blood cell levels. Epoetin is quite effective, but it has 2-week delay between the injection and when your red blood cell count really starts to come back. Since this medication has been linked to increased risk of death in cancer patients, your doctor will weight the benefits and risk carefully before giving this medication. 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.
Common side effects include:
NSAIDs are used to relieve pain and inflammation. You may experience pain and inflammation during your treatment.
NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular thrombotic events like
a heart attack
stroke. This risk is especially important for those with cardiovascular disease or its risk factors.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
Ballantyne JC, Mao J. Opioid therapy for chronic pain.
N Engl J Med. 2003(20);349:1943-1953.
Epoetin Alfa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233424/Epoetin-Alfa. Updated July 7, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Filgrastim. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T908702/Filgrastim. Updated June 20, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Granisetron. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233458/Granisetron. Updated September 27, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
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):107-112.
Larson AM, Polson J, Fontana RJ, et al. Acetaminophen-induced acute liver failure: results of a United States multicenter, prospective study.
Metoclopramide. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233319/Metoclopramide. Updated September 27, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Ondansetron. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233417/Ondansetron. Updated September 27, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
Prochlorperazine. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:
http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233073/Prochlorperazine. Updated September 27, 2016. Accessed October 20, 2016.
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 March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
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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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