A number of medications may be prescribed for you to treat some of the symptoms that you may have from the cancer or cancer treatments.

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 if any of these medications are appropriate for you.

Prescription Medications

Antinauseants

    
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Odansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • Corticosteroids

        
  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone
  • Painkillers—Narcotics

        
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone and Acetaminophen
  • Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs

        
  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin
  • Over-the-Counter Medications

    Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

        
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Prescription Medications

    Antinauseants

    Common names include:

        
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Odansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • 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.

    Possible side effects of prochlorperazine include:

        
  • Blurred vision, change in color vision, or difficulty seeing at night
  • Fainting
  • Loss of balance control
  • Restlessness or need to keep moving
  • Shuffling walk
  • Stiffness of arms or legs
  • Trembling and shaking of hands and fingers
  • Possible side effects of odansetron include:

        
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Possible side effects of granisetron include:

        
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Possible side effects of metoclopramide include:

        
  • Diarrhea (with high doses)
  • Drowsiness
  • Restlessness
  • Increased risk of tardive dyskinesia (a serious neurological condition) in patients who take metoclopramide for longer than three months
  • Corticosteroids

    Common names include:

        
  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone
  • 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 bones
  • Edema (fluid build up in cells) caused by tumors or treatment
  • Possible side effects of corticosteroids include:

        
  • Increased appetite
  • Indigestion
  • Nervousness or restlessness
  • Painkillers—Narcotics

    Common names include:

        
  • Hydrocodone
  • Morphine
  • 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 addictive. If you are going to take one of these drugs for a long period of time, your doctor will closely monitor you.

    A narcotic analgesic and acetaminophen used together may provide better pain relief than either medicine used alone. In some cases it may take lower doses of each medicine yo achieve pain relief.

    Possible side effects of narcotics include:

        
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or feeling faint
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe constipation
  • Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs

    Common names include:

        
  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin
  • 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. Low red blood cell levels can lead to anemia . 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.

    Possible side effects of filgrastim include:

        
  • Headache
  • Pain in arms or legs
  • Pain in joints or muscles
  • Pain in lower back or pelvis
  • Skin rash or itching
  • Possible side effects of epoetin include:

        
  • Cough, sneezing, or sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swelling of face, fingers, ankles, feet, or lower legs
  • Weight gain
  • Over-the-Counter Medications

    Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

    Common names include:

        
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • 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 bones
  • Edema (fluid build up in cells) caused by tumors or treatment
  • Possible side effects of NSAIDs include:

        
  • Stomach cramps, pain, or discomfort
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, or lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Heartburn, indigestion, nausea, or vomiting
  • Special Considerations

    If you are taking medications, 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. 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 medication and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.