Trade Name: Blenoxane ®
Bleomycin is an anti-cancer ("antineoplastic" or "cytotoxic") chemotherapy drug. Bleomycin is classified as an "antitumor antibiotic." (For more detail, see "How Bleomycin Works" section below).
What Bleomycin Is Used For:
Used in the treatment of squamous cell cancers, melanoma, sarcoma, testicular cancer, Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Also used to treat pleural effusion (build up of fluid in the space between the lining of the lung and the chest wall).
Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.
How Bleomycin Is Given:
As an infusion into the vein (intravenous, IV).
As an injection into the muscle (intramuscular, IM).
As an injection under the skin (subcutaneous, SubQ).
As an intrapleural - into the pleural cavity (the space between the lining of the lung and the chest wall) injection. This is done to treat a malignant pleural effusion (build up of fluid). This procedure is also known as sclerosis or pleurodesis:
A chest tube is inserted into the pleural space. Any fluid is drained (this may take several days). The chemotherapy is inserted into the chest tube.
The chemotherapy causes the lung to stick to the pleural lining, allowing the lung to re-expand and stay expanded.
Intrapleural chemotherapy is used primarily for symptom relief.
There is no pill form of Bleomycin.
The amount of Bleomycin that you will receive and the method it is given depends on many factors, including your height and weight, your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition being treated. Your doctor will determine your dose, schedule, and how it will be given.
Side Effects of Bleomycin:
Important things to remember about the side effects of Bleomycin:
Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.
The side effects of Bleomycin and their severity depend on how much of the drug is given, as well as how it is given. For example, high doses may produce more severe side effects.
The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking Bleomycin:
Fever and chills
Skin reactions: redness, darkening of the skin, stretch marks on the skin, skin peeling, thickening of the skin, ulceration
Nail thickening, nail banding
These side effects are less common side effects (occurring in about 10-29%) of patients receiving Bleomycin:
Nausea and vomiting.
Poor appetite and weight loss.
Lung problems: pneumonitis, rarely pulmonary fibrosis. The incidence of lung problems increases with age and pre-existing lung conditions. There is a maximum lifetime dose of Bleomycin. Your health care professional will monitor the amount of Bleomycin you receive as well as your lung function during treatment.
Occasionally this can cause "radiation recall" effect. (see skin reactions)
Rare but significant side effects may include:
Vascular effects leading to heart attack or stroke - potentially life-threatening conditions, or Raynaud's phenomenon (a disorder of the small blood vessels that feed the skin, most commonly affecting the hands and feet).
Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) immediate or delayed for several hours. You will be monitored closely for any signs of allergic reaction (rash, flushing, lowered blood pressure, difficulty breathing).
Not all side effects are listed above. Some that are rare (occurring in less than 10% of patients) are not listed here. However, you should always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
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