In our previous post, we talked about some of the common forms of chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer patients. Many of the chemotherapy drugs discussed are used in combination together to treat a variety of different forms of cancer. While most chemotherapy drugs come with similar side effects- hair loss, anemia, nausea and vomiting, each drug has its own list of side effects and risks. Today, we will look at the side effects and risks of prolonged exposure to a few popular cancer-treating drugs.

 

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When looking at common cancer treatments, we discussed five of the common forms of chemotherapy drugs: alkylating agents, antimetabolites, antitumor antibiotics, mitotic inhibitors, and corticosteroids. We will look at one of the commonly used chemotherapy drugs from of these groups.

 

Cyclophosphamide

Cyclophosphamide is an alkylating agent chemotherapy drug, sold under the brand names of Cytoxan, Neosar and CTX. It is commonly used to treat lymphoma, leukemias, multiple myeloma, mycosis fungoides, neuroblastoma, retinoblastoma, and cancers of the breast and ovary.  Common side effects include increased risk of infection, hair loss or thinning, nausea, vomiting, mouth or lip sores, or diarrhea. Some patients also experience bleeding from bladdy with the appearance of blood in the urine, as well as short or long-term infertility. In rare cases, cyclophosphamide has risks of heart problems, kidney damage, heart damage, and scarring of the bladder and the lung tissues. It may also increase your long-term risk of getting a second type of cancer years after using the drug, such as leukemia or bladder cancer. However, this is a very rare risk. Prolonged use of cyclophosphamide can cause bone marrow suppression and possible failure, along with severe immunosuppression that may lead to serious infection.

 

Fluorouracil

Fluorouracil, also referred to as 5-fluorouracil, 5-FU, or Adrucil, belongs to the anti-metabolites group of chemotherapy drugs. Several types of cancers benefit from the use of fluorouracil, including colon, rectum, head, neck and breast cancers. Commonly seen side effects include increased risk of infection, increased risk of bleeding, darkening of skins and nail beds, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, dry skin, and increased sensitivity to sun. In rare cases, fluorouracil has caused heart problems and a condition known as hand-foot syndrome.

 

Doxorubicin

Doxorubicin, also known as Adriamycin, is a commonly used antitumor antibiotic chemotherapy drug. It is currently used in the treatment of many cancers, including bladder, breast, head, neck, leukemia, liver, lung, lymphoma, prostate and thyroid. Doxorubicin most commonly causes nausea, vomiting, low blood counts, mouth sores and hair loss. With prolonged use of doxorubicin, there is a slight risk of developing a blood cancer (such as leukemia) years after taking it.

Paclitaxel

Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy drug belonging to the mitotic inhibitor class. It is commonly sold under the brand names of Taxol, Onxol, or Paxene. Paclitaxel is used to treat breast, lung, and ovarian cancers, along with Kaposi sarcoma. Many patients experience the common side effects of low white blood cell count, mild allergic reaction, numbness or pain in the hands and feet, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, and anemia. More serious risks from paclitaxel include nerve damage, peripheral neuropathy, and changes in heart rhythm.

 

Prednisone

Prednisone is a corticosteroid that is used both as a chemotherapy drug and an antiemetic drug in cancer patients. It may also be sold under the brand name of Deltasone or Prednisone Intensol. As a chemotherapy drug, it is used to help treat some leukemias, lymphomas, and other cancers in conjunction with other chemotherapy drugs.  Prednisone is also used to prevent and treat allergic reactions, nausea and vomiting, and improve loss of appetite caused by chemotherapy drugs. Common side effects include increased appetite, trouble sleeping, upset stomach, weight gain, increased blood glucose levels and slowed wound healing. It can also cause immunosuppression, increasing the risk of infection. Possible long-term risks of prednisone include increased risk of cataracts, glaucoma, osteoporosis, fractures, loss of muscle mass, abnormal hair growth, thinning skin, acne, and a change in body fat distribution.

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