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 him or her if any of these medications are appropriate for you.
Antinauseants Prochlorperazine (Compazine)Ondansetron (Zofran)Granisetron (Kytril)Metoclopramide (such as Octamide, Metoclopramide Intensol, Reglan)
Corticosteroids Dexamethasone (such as Cortastat, Dalalone, Decadrol)Prednisone (such as Cordrol, Deltasone, Liquid Pred)
Painkillers—Narcotics Hydrocodone (such as Dilaudid, Hydrostat)Methadone (such as Astramorph PF, Duramorph, Kadian)Oxycodone and Acetaminophen (Percocet)
Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs Filgrastim (Neupogen)Epoetin (Epogen, Procrit)
Common names include: Prochlorperazine
(such as Octamide, Metoclopramide Intensol, Reglan)
Antinauseants, also called anti-emetics, are given to help treat nausea and vomiting that may be caused by chemotherapy, radiation, or 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:
For Prochlorperazine: Blurred vision, change in color vision, or difficulty seeing at nightFaintingLoss of balance controlRestlessness or need to keep movingShuffling walkStiffness of arms or legsTrembling and shaking of hands and fingers
For Ondansetron: ConstipationDiarrheaFeverHeadache
For Granisetron: Abdominal painConstipationDiarrheaHeadacheUnusual tiredness or weakness
For Metoclopramide: Diarrhea (with high doses)DrowsinessRestlessness
Increased risk of
(a serious neurological condition) in patients who take Metoclopramide for longer than 3 months
Common names include: Dexamethasone
(such as Cortastat, Dalalone, Decadrol)Prednisone
(such as Cordrol, Deltasone, Liquid Pred)
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: Bone pain from cancer that has spread to your bonesEdema (fluid build-up in cells) caused by tumors or treatment
Common side effects include: Increased appetiteIndigestionNervousness or restlessness
Common names include: Hydrocodone (such as Dilaudid, Hydrostat)Methadone
(such as Astramorph PF, Duramorph, Kadian)Oxycodone and Acetaminophen
Narcotics act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. These drugs can be very effective, however, they must be used with great caution because they can be mentally and/or physically addicting. If you are going to take one of these drugs for a long period of time, your doctor will closely monitor you.
Percocet is a combination medication. A narcotic 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.
The most common side effects of narcotics include: Dizziness, light-headedness, or feeling faintDrowsinessNausea or vomiting
Common names include: Filgrastim
During cancer treatment, blood cells can be destroyed along with cancer cells. Filgrastim helps your bone marrow make new white blood cells, which 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
; 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.
Common side effects include:
For Filgrastim: HeadachePain in arms or legsPain in joints or musclesPain in lower back or pelvisSkin rash or itching
For Epoetin: Cough, sneezing, or sore throatFeverSwelling of face, fingers, ankles, feet, or lower legsWeight gain
Common names include: Ibuprofen
(such as Advil)Naproxen
(such as Aleve)
NSAIDs are used to relieve pain and inflammation. You may experience pain and inflammation for a variety of reasons, such as: Bone pain from cancer that has spread to your bonesEdema (fluid build-up in cells) caused by tumors or treatment
Common side effects include: Stomach cramps, pain, or discomfortDizziness, drowsiness, or lightheadednessHeadacheHeartburn
, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting
If you are taking medication, follow these general guidelines: Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.Do not share them.Know what the results and side effects are. Report them to your doctor.Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medications and herb or dietary supplements.Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Manual of Clinical Oncology.
5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2004.
Cashen AF, Wildes TM.
The Washington Manual of Hematology and Oncology Subspecialty Consult.
2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolter Kluwers Health; 2008.
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.
National Cancer Institute
website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed January 31, 2006.
United States Pharmacopeial Convention.
21st ed. Englewood, CO: Micromedex; 2001.
Last reviewed September 2014 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
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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