Here are the basics about each of the medicines below. Only the most common reactions are listed. Ask your doctor if you need to take any special steps. Use each of these drugs as advised by your doctor or the booklet they came with. If you have any questions, call your doctor.

Medicines are used to treat side effects. You can have them from cancer or its treatment. Talk to your doctor if you have any of these problems so they can be controlled.

Prescription Medications

Anti-nausea

  • Prochlorperazine
  • Odansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • Cannabinoids

Corticosteroids

  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone

Opioids

  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone and Acetaminophen

Bisphosphonates

  • Denosumab
  • Pamidronate
  • Zoledronic acid

Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs

  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin

Over-the-Counter Medications

Pain Relievers

  • Acetaminophen

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Prescription Medications

Anti-nausea
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Odansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • Cannabinoids

Anti-nausea medicines help treat or prevent nausea and vomiting. They are given in different ways such as a pill or shot.

Cannabinoids are also used to treat nausea and vomiting. Medical marijuana can be used in food, taken as a pill, or inhaled.

Some problems are:

For prochlorperazine:

  • Problems seeing clearly, in color, or at night
  • Fainting
  • Loss of balance
  • Restlessness or need to keep moving
  • Shuffling when walking
  • Stiffness of arms or legs
  • Trembling and shaking of hands and fingers

For odansetron:

For granisetron:

  • Belly pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Feeling very tired or week

For metoclopramide:

  • Diarrhea (with high doses)
  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness
  • Higher risk of tardive dyskinesia—a serious nervous system problem that happens in people who take this drug longer than 3 months

For cannabinoids:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Low blood pressure, which may result in lightheadedness and fainting
  • Blood shot eyes
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
Corticosteroids
  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone

Corticosteroids ease inflammation and pain. These may be caused by:

  • Bone pain
  • Fluid buildup

Some problems are:

  • More hunger
  • Heartburn
  • Nervousness or restlessness
Opioids
  • Hydrocodone
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen

Opioids are used to ease pain. They work well, but can lead to addiction. If you take opioids, the doctor will watch you closely.

Percocet is a blend of 2 drugs. An opioid and acetaminophen are blended together. They work better than either one used alone. In some cases, lower doses of each drug are needed to achieve pain relief.

Some problems are:

  • Constipation
  • Lightheadedness
  • Feeling faint
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs
  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin

Cancer treatment ruins healthy blood cells. Filgrastim helps your bone marrow make new white blood cells so the body can better fight infections.

Epoetin helps your bone marrow to make new red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. This drug has two-week delay after the first shot. If blood cells need to be restored quickly, a blood transfusion may be done.

Some problems are:

For filgrastim:

  • Headache
  • Pain in arms or legs
  • Pain in joints or muscles
  • Pain in lower back or pelvis
  • Skin rash or itching

For epoetin:

  • Cough, sneezing, or sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swelling of face, fingers, ankles, feet, or lower legs
  • Weight gain
Bisphosphonates
  • Denosumab
  • Pamidronate
  • Zoledronic acid

Cancer treatment can weaken bones, which makes the risk of a break higher. Bisphosphonates makes bones stronger.

Some problems are:

  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation

Over-the-Counter Medications

Pain Relievers
  • Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen is used to relieve pain. It rarely causes stomach irritation or bleeding. However, people with liver disease or who drink a lot of alcohol should not take drugs with acetaminophen in them. Talk to your doctor first if you use this drug longer than expected.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

NSAIDs ease inflammation and pain. These may be caused by:

  • Bone pain
  • Fluid buildup

Some problems are:

  • Stomach cramps, pain, or discomfort
  • Lighheadedness or drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Heartburn, nausea, or vomiting

Special Considerations

If you are taking medicine:

  • Take medicine as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Do not share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicine can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medicine. This includes over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan for refills as needed.

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