Bleomycin is a drug used to treat testicular cancer, lymphoma, cervical cancer, and head and neck cancers.
Bleomycin can also be used to treat a condition where fluid builds up between the layers covering the lungs. This is called a pleural effusion. To treat a pleural effusion, a doctor injects bleomycin into the space between the layers to stop the fluid from building up again. This section doesn't cover the use of bleomycin for a pleural effusion.
HOW IS BLEOMYCIN ADMINISTERED?
Bleomycin is generally given in the chemotherapy day unit or during a hospital stay. Oftentimes, it is given alongside other chemotherapy medications.
Before the day of treatment, a nurse will take a blood sample from you to see if you are fit for chemotherapy.
You will also be able to see a doctor or nurse before having chemotherapy. They will ask you how you have been feeling. If the results of your blood test are good on the day of your treatment, the pharmacist will prepare your chemotherapy.
A nurse gives you an injection of bleomycin in a vein or muscle.
If you have chemotherapy in a vein, your nurse can give you anti-nausea medication before the treatment. Next, you will receive bleomycin in one of the following ways:
- Through a thin tube (line) inserted into a vein in the arm or hand by a nurse
- Through a tube that goes below the skin of your chest to a nearby vein (central line)
- Through a thin tube that is placed in a vein of the arm and goes up through a vein toward the chest (PICC)
Your nurse will give you Abraxane as a drip (perfusion) through a cannula or a line for about half an hour.
If you are having bleomycin as an injection into a muscle, your nurse will give you the injection.
Some people may have side effects while they are receiving chemotherapy.
PAIN ALONG THE VEIN
If you feel pain in your vein, let your nurse know immediately; they will check the puncture site and the rate of administration to relieve you of your pain.
Bleomycin can cause flue-like symptoms such as feeling hot or cold and/or shivery, headache, and general achiness. You may experience these symptoms while you are being given the medication or several hours afterward. Your nurse will tell you if this is likely to happen. They may advise you to take paracetamol. Drinking lots of fluids can also help. Your nurse may give you a drug before your chemotherapy to lower the risk of flu symptoms.
If the symptoms are severe or do not get better in 24 hours, get in touch with your hospital.
YOUR CHEMOTHERAPY CYCLE
You will have chemotherapy as part of a course or cycle, consisting of several treatment sessions and lasting several months. This will depend on the type of cancer you have. Your doctor or nurse will tell you the exact number of cycles you are likely to have.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF BLEOMYCIN
You may experience some of the side effects mentioned here, though it is rare for a patient to have all of them. If you receive other chemotherapy drugs, you may have other side effects that are not mentioned here. Always inform your doctor of the effects you experience.
Your doctor can prescribe medication to help control some of the side effects. It is very important to take the medication exactly as your doctor says for it to have the highest chance of working well. Your nurse will advise you on managing the side effects. After treatment, the side effects start to get better.
RISK OF INFECTION
Bleomycin can lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, though this happens rarely if you are taking bleomycin alone. Having a low number of white blood cells in your blood will make you more prone to infection. When the number of white blood cells is low, this is called neutropenia.
Contact your hospital by calling the contact number they gave youif:
- your temperature goes above 38 ° C
- You suddenly feel unwell, even if your temperature is normal
- You have symptoms of infection, which may include sore throat, coughing, diarrhea, or the need to urinate frequently.
The number of white blood cells normally increases gradually, returning to normal before your next chemotherapy treatment. You will have blood tests done before your next chemotherapy. If your white blood cells are still low, your doctor may postpone the treatment.
BRUISING AND BLEEDING
Capecitabine may lower the number of platelets you have in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot. Tell your doctor if you have any unexplained bleeding or bruising. This includes nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood spots, or skin eruptions (rashes). Some people may require a drip to give them more platelets.
ANEMIA (LOW RED BLOOD CELLS)
Chemotherapy may lower the number of red blood cells you have in your blood. Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. If you have a low number of red blood cells, you may be tired and short of breath. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel like this. If you are very anemic, it's possible you will require a blood transfusion.
This can happen on the first few days after chemotherapy. Your doctor will prescribe you antiemetic drugs to help prevent or control your nausea. Take the medicine exactly as your nurse or pharmacist tells you. It is easier to prevent disease than it is to treat it once it has begun.
If you still have nausea or are vomiting, get in touch with the hospital as soon as possible. They can give you advice on this and change your medication.
SORENESS OF THE MOUTH
You may have a sore mouth or mouth ulcers. This can make you more susceptible to infection in your mouth. Lightly brush your teeth and/or dentures in the morning and night and after meals. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush. Your nurse might ask you to rinse your mouth out regularly or use mouthwash. It is important that you follow all the instructions you are given and that you drink a lot of fluids.
Tell your nurse or doctor if you have any mouth problems. They can prescribe you drugs to prevent or treat infections of the mouth and to treat any kind of pain.
LOSS OF APPETITE
You may lose your appetite during the treatment. Try to eat in small quantities and have frequent meals. Don't worry if you don't eat much for a day or two. If your appetite doesn't get any better after a few days, tell your nurse or dietitian. They may advise you on how to get more calories and proteins in your diet. They can give you nutritional supplements or good-tasting meal-replacement drinks.
Feeling very tired is a common side effect. Fatigue is often worst toward the end of treatment and for a few months after the treatment has finished. Try to pace yourself and rest as much as you need to. Help balance this with a bit of light exercise, such as short walks. If you feel drowsy, don't drive or operate heavy machinery.
Chemotherapy can affect your skin. If you feel your skin is dry, try to use a fragrance-free moisturizing cream every day. Your skin may darken during the treatment. Sometimes, bleomycin causes long, thin streaks resembling scratches to appear on one or more areas of the skin. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any change to your skin. They can advise you and prescribe creams or medication that may help. Normally, changes in the skin are temporary and will get better as soon as the treatment is over.
Usually, people lose all of their hair. Also, the eyelashes, eyebrows, and other parts of the body may lose their hair. This normally starts after your first or second cycle of chemotherapy. It is almost always temporary, and the hair will continue to grow after you finish your chemotherapy. Until the time when you hair grows back, it is important to cover your head so as to protect the scalp while it is exposed to the sun's rays. Your nurse can give you advice on how to cope with losing your hair.
CHANGES IN YOUR NAILS
Your nails may become fragile and break easily. They could darken or become discolored. These changes go away when the treatment is completed. During your treatment, try to protect your nails by wearing gloves to wash dishes. If you experience pain, reddening, or swelling around the nails, tell your doctor or nurse.
EFFECTS ON THE LUNGS
Bleomycin can cause changes in the lungs. Always let your doctor know if you have wheezing, coughing, fever, or if you are out of breath. If necessary, tests can be done to check your lungs. It is likely you will have a chest x-ray before beginning the treatment and on a regular basis throughout the process.
Some people find that bleomycin gives them headaches. Tell your doctor if you have headaches or if you feel dizzy. Your doctor or nurse can give you painkillers to relieve your headaches.
Other information on bleomycin
BLOOD CLOT RISK
Cancer and chemotherapy increase the chances of a blood (thrombosis). The symptoms include pain, reddening or swelling in a leg, difficulty breathing, and pain in the chest. Get in touch with your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
Some medicines can interact with chemotherapy or be harmful if they are taken alongside chemotherapy. This includes medications that can be purchased in a store or pharmacy. Tell your doctor the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter medications, complementary therapies, and herbal medicines.
Bleomycin can affect your fertility. If this worries you, you can talk to your doctor before beginning treatment.
Your doctor will advise you not to become pregnant during the treatment. This is because the drugs can harm developing babies. It is important to use contraception during chemotherapy and for a few months after the treatment ends.
If you have sex within the first few days after chemotherapy, it is necessary to use a condom. This is to protect your partner in case there is chemotherapy in semen or vaginal fluid.
Women are recommended not to breastfeed during treatment and for a few months after chemotherapy has concluded. This is in case the chemotherapy enters their breast milk.
MEDICAL AND DENTAL TREATMENT
If you have to go to the hospital for whatever reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having chemotherapy.
Talk to your cancer doctor or nurse if you think you need dental treatment. Always let your dentist know that you are having chemotherapy.