What Carmustine is and what it is used for?
- Carmustine is an alkylating agent that exerts its anticancer activity by reacting with DNA and interfering with DNA replication and cell division. This stops the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
- Carmustine is used to treat certain types of brain tumors including glioma, glioblastoma multiforme, medulloblastoma and astrocytoma. This medicine may also be used to treat other cancers or as the conditioning regimen prior to stem cell transplantation, as determined by your doctor.
How Carmustine is given?
- It is given as an infusion into a vein over 2 hours or longer.
What should I know while receiving Carmustine?
- An infusion reaction may happen during or shortly after the infusion, causing feeling hot or flushed, fever and chills, breathing difficulties, swelling of throat or face, or hives. Tell your nurse right away if you feel unwell during an infusion.
- Do not receive this drug when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 3 and 6 months after the last dose.
- Carmustine may affect fertility. You can talk to your doctor about methods of preserving fertility before treatment starts.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- There are many drugs may affect how carmustine works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- You will have regular blood tests and medical examinations to make sure you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive carmustine.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of carmustine. You should let your doctor know if you have had a stem cell transplant or have any other medical problems, especially if you have kidney problems, lung or breathing problems.
Common side effects
- Low white blood cell count
You may have a higher risk of getting infections. Try to stay away from crowds and wash hands often. Tell your doctor right away if you have repeated fevers, coughing, stuffy nose, a painful urination or wound that becomes red and swollen.
- Low platelet count
You may have a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor know if you find red or purple dots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, or any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
- Low red blood cell count
You may look pale and get tired more easily. Let your doctor know if you experience any difficulty breathing or dizziness when changing positions.
- Nausea and vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Fatigue and weakness
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
- Inflammation of the vein
Tell your nurse right away if you get pain, tenderness or redness at the place where the injection is given or along the vein.
Less common side effects
- Skin reactions
Symptoms include dry skin or changes in the color of skin. Tell your doctor about any skin changes that you have. Your doctor can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- Eye irritation
You might have dry eyes or infection in the eyes. Tell your doctor if this happens. Medicines can be given to relieve symptoms.
- Diarrhea and constipation
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve the conditions.
- Low blood pressure
This mostly happens when you have high dose of carmustine. Tell your doctor if you have problems with blood pressure. Let your doctor know if you feel dizzy and feeling faint during treatment.
- Lung or breathing problems
Tell your doctor if you develop difficulty breathing with wheezing and coughing or there is any existing breathing problems get worse.
- Changes in liver function
This is usually mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. Tell your doctor at once if you notice you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen.
Rare but serious side effects
- Secondary cancer
Carmustine may cause an increased risk of developing secondary cancer years later. Treatment benefits may outweigh the risk of secondary cancer. Your doctor can talk you about this.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day during treatment can help make your recovery a smoother process.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.