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Side effects of crizotinib

Find out about the side effects of the cancer treatment drug crizotinib.

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.

Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if any of your side effects get severe or if you have signs of infection, including a temperature above 38C.

The side effects may be different if you are having crizotinib with other cancer treatments.

Common side effects

Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 10 people (10%). You might have one or more of them.

Eyesight changes are usually mild and include blurred vision, double vision, flashing lights and seeing dark spots called floaters. This side effect generally starts within the first week of treatment and usually improves over time.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any new or worsening eyesight changes.

Around 6 out of 10 people (60%) have this side effect.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have diarrhoea. They can prescribe medicine to help you. 

Drink at least 2.5 litres of fluid a day. This helps to keep you hydrated.

Ask your nurse about soothing creams to apply around your back passage (rectum). The skin in that area can get very sore and even break if you have severe diarrhoea.

Contact your doctor or nurse immediately if you have diarrhoea 4 or more times a day, or any diarrhoea at night.

You might feel sick or be sick. 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.

Tips 

  • Avoid eating or preparing food when you feel sick.
  • Avoid hot fried foods, fatty foods or foods with a strong smell.
  • Eat several small meals and snacks each day.
  • Relaxation techniques help control sickness for some people.
  • Ginger can help – try it as crystallised stem ginger, ginger tea or ginger ale.
  • Try fizzy drinks.
  • Sip high calorie drinks if you can’t eat.

Around half of people (50%) have this side effect.

Swelling of hands and feet is due to fluid build up. This is called oedema. Your face may also become puffy. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any swelling.

This is usually mild. Putting your feet up can help with swelling in your legs.

Nearly half of people (50%) have oedema.

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.

Around 4 out of 10 people (40%) have this side effect.

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.

Tips

  • 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.

Around 3 out of 10 people (30%) have this effect.

You are likely to feel very tired during your treatment. It tends to get worse as the treatment goes on. You might also feel weak and lack energy.

After a while you may need to sleep for some time during the day. Rest when you need to.

Tiredness gets better once you finish treatment but it can carry on for some months or years.

Various things can help you to reduce tiredness and cope with it, for example exercise. Some research has shown that taking gentle exercise can give you more energy. It is important to balance exercise with resting.

Around 3 out 10 people (30%) have this side effect.

Blood tests that show how well your liver is working may not be normal.

You’ll have regular blood tests throughout your treatment so your doctor can check this.

Liver changes are usually mild and go back to normal when you finish treatment.

It is important to drink plenty while you are having treatment. Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if your urine is much darker than usual or your skin or eyes look yellow.

Around 3 out of 10 people (30%) have liver changes.

Don’t drive or operate machinery if you have this.

Between 2 and 3 out of 10 people (25%) have this side effect.

Signs of an infection include headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or feeling cold and shivery.

Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these signs or if your temperature goes above 38C. Severe infections can be life threatening.

Cancer treatments can reduce the number of white blood cells in the blood. This increases your risk of infections. White blood cells help fight infections.

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.

Around 2 out of 10 people (20%) have neutropenia.

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.

Tips

  • 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.

Around 2 out of 10 people (20%) have this effect.

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.

Tips

  • 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.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any numbness, tingling or a burning sensation.

Tell your doctor if you have any pain or discomfort.

This treatment makes the level of red blood cells fall (anaemia). You may feel breathless and look pale.

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.

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 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.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel breathless.

Between 1 and 2 out 10 people (15%) have anaemia.

Tell your doctor if you have any rashes or itching, particularly if your rash becomes red, painful or looks like acne.

Moisturising your skin regularly helps to reduce the risk of skin side effects. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what lotions, creams or gels to use.

Don't go swimming if you have a rash as the chlorine in the water can make it worse.

Cover up and use a high factor sun block if you’re going out in the sun.

Do not use products to treat acne.

Just over 1 in 10 people (13%) have this effect.

You’ll have your heart rate (pulse) checked regularly.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any dizziness or faint.

Just over 1 out of 10 people (12%) have this effect.

Occasional side effects

Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them.

Indigestion is pain or discomfort in your chest or stomach. It often happens shortly after eating or drinking.

Symptoms can also include:

  • heartburn, a burning sensation in the lower chest
  • feeling sick
  • feeling bloated
  • belching

This is caused by stomach acid irritating the foodpipe, the stomach or the top part of the bowel. Ask your doctor or nurse for anti heartburn medicines if you need them.

Tips

  • Stop smoking.
  • Limit your caffeine intake found in coffee and tea, canned drinks and chocolate.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that can cause heartburn, such as citrus fruits and alcohol.
  • Raise the head of your bed when sleeping or lying down.
  • Don't eat for 2 or 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Reduce fatty foods in your diet, such as deep fried foods.

8 out of 100 people (8%) have this effect.

Blood tests may show you have low phosphate levels. Your doctor can give you supplements to correct this.

Tell your doctor if you have any muscle weakness or confusion.

6 out of 100 people (6%) have low phosphate levels.

Heart problems include changes to how your heart works. This can cause changes to your heart rhythm and your ankles can swell.

Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have any chest pain.

Your doctor might ask you to have tests to check your heart, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are short of breath or you have a cough. This could be due to infection. It can also be due to changes to the lung tissue, making the lung tissue less flexible.

Contact your doctor straight away if you have sudden difficulty in breathing and a cough or high temperature.

A collection of fluid in the kidney is called a renal cyst. You may have regular scans if you develop this.

3 out of 100 people (3%) have this side effect.

Testosterone is a male sex hormone.

Tell your doctor if you have unusual mood swings or low sex drive (libido). They can take blood tests to check your hormone levels.

2 out of 100 people (2%) have this effect.

Rare side effects

Each of these effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them.

Very rarely, a hole (perforation) in the stomach or bowel wall can develop. Tell your doctor immediately if you have:

  • blood in your sick (vomit) - this may look bright red or dark brown, like coffee grounds
  • dark, sticky, tar-like poo (stools)
  • sudden sharp pain in your abdomen that gets worse

Your doctor or nurse will regularly check how well your liver is working during treatment.

Tell your doctor straight away if your urine looks much darker than usual or your skin or eyes look yellow.

About crizotinib

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.

Information and help

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