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Bleomycin

Find out what bleomycin is, how you have it and other important information about having bleomycin.

Bleomycin is a treatment for a number of types of cancers. You might have it as part of a clinical trial for some types of cancer.

How it works

Bleomycin is a type of antibiotic that is poisonous to cells. It binds to the cancer cells’ DNA so that the cells can't divide or grow. It also causes free radicals to be made inside the body. Free radicals are overactive oxygen atoms that damage DNA.

How you have bleomycin

You might have bleomycin in the following ways:

Into a muscle

Bleomycin is a liquid made from dissolving a yellow-white powder called Bleo-kyowa. You usually have it as an injection into a muscle (intramuscular injection).

Into your bloodstream

Some people have bleomycin as a drip into their bloodstream (intravenously). Each treatment takes between 20 and 30 minutes, or longer.

You can have it through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have your treatment.

You can also have it through a long line either a central line, a PICC line or a portacath.

These are long, plastic tubes that give the drugs into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment.

Into a tumour

Some people may have bleomycin as an injection directly into a tumour.

Into a cavity

Sometimes, bleomycin is injected through a tube into a body cavity in the chest or abdomen. This is called an intracavity injection. You usually only have this once or twice.

When you have it

Bleomycin is often given as a course of several cycles of treatment. The treatment plan depends on which type of cancer you have. It is often used alongside other chemotherapy drugs as part of combination chemotherapy treatments.

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine
  • be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, you mustn't change their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination.

You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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