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Carboplatin and etoposide

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

Carboplatin and etoposide is a combination of chemotherapy drugs.

 It is a treatment for small cell cancers, including:

  • small cell lung cancer
  • small cell bladder cancer
  • small cell cervical cancer

How it works

These chemotherapy drugs destroy quickly dividing cells, such as cancer cells.

How you have it

You usually have carboplatin and etoposide into your bloodstream (intravenously). 

You might also have etoposide as capsules. You take it on an empty stomach. 

Drugs into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

Taking capsules

You must take your capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

Whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

When you have it

You might have up to 6 cycles of treatment, taking 4 to 5 months in total. Each cycle last 3 weeks (21 days). Your doctor will tell you how often and when you have it. 

You usually have each cycle of treatment in the following way:

Day 1
  • carboplatin as a drip into a vein for an hour
  • etoposide as a drip into a vein for an hour
Day 2 and 3
  • etoposide as a drip into a vein for an hour OR
  • etoposide capsules that you swallow for 2 to 4 days

You then have a break until the next cycle 3 weeks later. 

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, foods and drink

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 may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment with these drugs and for at least 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Loss of fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with these drugs. 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 drugs may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists 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 shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

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, avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.

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

Latex

Let your doctor know if you have a latex allergy.

Alcohol

This drug contains small amounts of alcohol. This is not harmful to most people but may be if you have alcohol problems.

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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