Find out about the side effects of the chemotherapy drug carboplatin.
Carboplatin is a treatment for many different types of cancer.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any side effects so they can help you manage them. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.
Common side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 10 people (10%). You might have one or more of them.
Signs of an infection include headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or feeling cold and shivery.
Chemotherapy reduces the number of white blood cells in the blood. This increases your risk of infections. White blood cells help fight infections.
Your white blood cell level begins to fall after each treatment. It’s lowest about 14 to 28 days after your chemotherapy treatment. Then it gradually goes up again.
When the level is very low it is called neutropenia (pronounced new-troh-pee-nee-ah).
You have antibiotics if you develop an infection. You might have them as tablets or as injections into the bloodstream (intravenously). To have them into your bloodstream you need to go into hospital.
Chemotherapy makes the level of red blood cells fall (anaemia). Red blood cells contain haemoglobin, which carries oxygen around the body. When the level of red blood cells is low you have less oxygen going to your cells. This can make you breathless and look pale. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel breathless.
You have regular blood tests to check your red blood cell levels. You might need a blood transfusion if the level is very low. After a transfusion, you will be less breathless and less pale.
You can also feel tired and depressed when your blood count is low and feel better once it is back to normal. The levels can rise and fall during your treatment. So it can feel like you are on an emotional and physical roller coaster.
You might notice you:
- bruise more easily
- have nosebleeds
- have bleeding gums when you brush your teeth
This is due to a drop in the number of platelets that help clot your blood.
If your platelets get very low you may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs called petechiae.
You'll have a platelet transfusion if your platelet count is very low. It is a drip of a clear fluid containing platelets. It takes about 15 to 30 minutes. The new platelets start to work right away.
You might feel very tired during your treatment. It might take 6 months to a year for your energy levels to get back to normal after the treatment ends. A low red blood cell count will also make you feel tired.
You can do things to help yourself, including some gentle exercise. It’s important not to push yourself too hard. Try to eat a well balanced diet.
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you are finding the tiredness difficult to manage.
Feeling or being sick can be severe. It can start a few hours after treatment and last for a few days. Anti-sickness injections and tablets can control it. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel sick. You might need to try different anti-sickness medicines to find one that works.
Contact your doctor or nurse straight away if you’ve been sick more than once in a day.
- Avoid eating or preparing food when you feel sick.
- Avoid fried foods, fatty foods or foods with a strong smell.
- Drink plenty of liquid to stop you from getting dehydrated.
- Relaxation techniques help control sickness for some people.
- Ginger can help – try it as crystallised stem ginger, ginger tea or ginger ale.
- Fizzy drinks help some people when they are feeling sick.
You have blood tests before your treatments, to check how well your kidneys are working.
To help prevent damage, it is important to drink plenty of water. You also have fluids into your vein before and after your treatment for several hours.
Your nurse might ask you to keep a record of how much you drink. And you may need to measure the amount of urine that you pass and keep a record of that.
Tell your nurse or doctor if you're not able to drink as much as you should – for example, if you feel sick. And tell them if the amount of urine you pass goes down.
Carboplatin can cause hearing loss of high pitched sounds in just over 1 in 10 people (10%). This usually gets better on its own after treatment has finished. But it may be a permanent problem for some.
High levels of uric acid in your blood can lead to a build up of crystals in body tissues and cause a type of arthritis known as gout. You’ll have regular blood tests to check these levels.
You might have liver changes that are very mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. They usually go back to normal when treatment finishes.
You have regular blood tests to check for any changes in levels of chemicals produced by the liver.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have this.
Women might stop having periods (amenorrhoea) but this may be temporary.
Occasional side effects
Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them.
Drink plenty of fluids if you have diarrhoea so you don't get dehydrated. Ask your nurse for cream to put around your back passage if the skin gets sore in that area.
Let your doctor or nurse know if the diarrhoea becomes severe or continues for more than a few days. They can give you medicines to help.
Constipation is easier to sort out if you treat it early. Drink plenty of fluids and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as you can. Try to take gentle exercise, such as walking.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you are constipated for more than 3 days. They can prescribe a laxative.
Your mouth might become sore a few days after you start treatment. It usually clears up gradually 3 to 4 weeks after your treatment ends.
Your nurse can give you mouthwashes to help prevent infection. You have to use these regularly to get the most protection.
Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if your mouth is really sore. They can help to reduce the discomfort. Some people need strong painkillers to help control mouth pain so they can eat and drink.
- Clean your mouth and teeth gently, use a soft bristled toothbrush.
- Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
- Use dental floss daily but be gentle so that you don't harm your gums, and don't floss if you have very low platelets.
- Avoid neat spirits, tobacco, hot spices, garlic, onion, vinegar and salty food.
- Moisten meals with gravies and sauces to make swallowing easier.
- Eating fresh or tinned pineapple can keep your mouth fresh and moist.
- Avoid acidic fruits such as oranges, grapefruit or lemons.
A rash can also be itchy. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have a skin rash. They can prescribe medicine to stop the itching and soothe your skin.
You may have headaches, muscle aches (myalgia), a high temperature and shivering.
Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes can make it difficult to do fiddly things such as doing up buttons. This starts within a few days or weeks and can last for a few months. Rarely, the numbness may be permanent.
- Keep your hands and feet warm.
- Wear well fitting, protective shoes.
- Take care when using hot water as you may not be able to feel how hot it is and could burn yourself.
- Use oven gloves when cooking and protective gloves when gardening.
- Moisturise your skin at least a couple of times a day.
- Take care when cutting your nails.
You might notice a ringing sound in your ears (tinnitus). This often gets better on its own once the treatment ends.
It is rarely a permanent problem.
Your hair may get thinner. It usually begins falling out gradually within 2 to 3 weeks after treatment starts.
Your hair grows back once your chemotherapy treatment has finished. This can take several months and your hair is likely to be softer.
- Use gentle hair products such as baby shampoos.
- Don't use perms or hair colours on thinning hair.
- Use a soft baby brush and comb thinning hair gently.
- Pat your hair dry gently rather than rubbing.
Rare side effects
Each of these effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them.
Some people can have an allergic reaction while the treatment is going into their bloodstream.
Let your nurse or doctor know straight away if you have:
- a sudden skin rash
- swelling of the lips, face or throat
- feeling hot
- redness of the face
- a sudden need to pass urine
Your chemotherapy nurse will keep a close eye on you and give you treatment straight away if this happens.
You might lose your appetite for various reasons when you are having cancer treatment. Sickness, taste changes or tiredness can all put you off food and drinks.
- Eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day can be easier to manage.
- Ask your doctor or nurse to recommend high calorie drinks to sip between treatments, if you are worried about losing weight.
- You can make up calories between treatments for the days when you really don’t feel like eating.
- Drink plenty of fluids even if you can't eat.
- Don't fill your stomach with a large amount of liquid before eating.
- Try to eat high calorie foods to keep your weight up.
Changes in taste can make you go off certain foods. Many people go off tea and coffee, for example. You might also find that some foods taste different. Some people find that they prefer to eat spicier foods.
Your taste usually gradually goes back to normal when your treatment is over. It may take a few weeks.
- Choose foods that have strong flavours, such as herbs, spices, marinades and sauces if all your food tastes the same.
- Season your food with spices or herbs, such as rosemary, basil and mint.
- Garnish cold meat or cheese with pickle or chutney.
- Try lemon or green tea if tea or coffee taste strange.
- Sharp tasting fizzy drinks such as lemonade or ginger beer are refreshing.
- Some people find that cold foods taste better than hot foods.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any changes to your eyesight. This often goes back to normal after treatment.
Tell your chemotherapy nurse straight away if you notice any signs of redness, swelling or leaking at your drip site.
You could lose all your hair. This includes your eyelashes, eyebrows, underarm, leg and sometimes pubic hair. It usually starts gradually within 2 to 3 weeks after treatment begins.
Your hair will grow back once your chemotherapy treatment has finished. This can take several months and your hair is likely to be softer. It can also grow back a different colour or be curlier than before.
- Ask about getting a wig before you start treatment so you can match the colour and texture of your real hair.
- You could choose a wig for a whole new look.
- Think about having your hair cut short before your treatment starts.
- Some people shave their hair off completely so they don't have to cope with their hair falling out.
- Wear a hairnet at night so you won't wake up with hair all over your pillow.
There is a small risk that you may get a second cancer some years after this treatment. Your doctor will discuss this with you.
More information about this treatment
We haven't listed all the very rare side effects of this treatment. For further information see the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have that isn’t listed here to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.