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 healthcare provider.

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 them if any of these medications are appropriate for you.

Prescription Medications

Antiemetics

    
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Ondansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • Opioids

        
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydrocodone and acetaminophen
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen
  • Tapentadol
  • Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs

        
  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin
  • Over-the-Counter Medications

    Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

        
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Prescription Medications

    Antiemetics

    Common names include:

        
  • Prochlorperazine
  • Ondansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramid
  • Antiemetics, are given to help treat nausea and vomiting that may be caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery to treat cancer.

    Possible side effects include:

    For prochlorperazine:

        
  • Drowsiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision or impaired night vision
  • Skin reactions
  • Low blood pressure
  • Ceased menstrual cycle
  • For ondansetron:

        
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Urinary retention
  • Itchiness
  • For granisetron:

        
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • For metoclopramide:

        
  • Restlessness
  • Drowsiness
  • Diarrhea (with high doses)
  • Increased risk of tardive dyskinesia, a serious neurological condition, in patients who take metoclopramide for longer than 3 months
  • Opioids

    Common names include:

        
  • Hydromorphone
  • Morphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Hydrocodone and acetaminophen
  • Oxycodone and acetaminophen
  • Tapentadol
  • Opioids act on the central nervous system to relieve pain. These drugs can be very effective however, they must be used with great caution. If you are going to take one of these drugs for a long period of time, your doctor will closely monitor you.

    Percocet and vicodin are examples of combination medication. An opioid 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. There is a limit to how much acetaminophen one can take per day. Remember to discuss taking an over-the-counter acetaminophen with your doctor while you taking one of the combination products.

    The most common side effects of opioids include:

        
  • Lightheadedness 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. This may be important when you have anemia, or low red blood cell levels. Epoetin is quite effective, but it has 2-week delay between the injection and when your red blood cell count really starts to come back. Since this medication has been linked to increased risk of death in cancer patients, your doctor will weight the benefits and risk carefully before giving this medication. 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:

        
  • Bone pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • For epoetin:

        
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in joints or muscles
  • Bone pain
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • 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 during your treatment.

    Common side effects include:

        
  • Stomach pain, or discomfort
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • NSAIDs may cause an increased risk of serious cardiovascular thrombotic events like a heart attack or stroke. This risk is especially important for those with cardiovascular disease or its risk factors.

    Special Considerations

    If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

        
  • Take the medication 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 medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.