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What Carbo MV is

Carbo MV is the name of a combination of chemotherapy drugs used to treat bladder cancer. It is made up of the drugs

  • Carboplatin
  • Methotrexate
  • Vinblastine

How you have Carbo MV treatment

You usually have Carbo MV chemotherapy as cycles of treatment. Each cycle of treatment lasts 4 weeks. Depending on your needs, you may have up to 6 cycles, taking 6 months in total.

You have Carbo MV drugs into your bloodstream (intravenously). You can have them through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment. Or you may have them through a central line, a portacath or a PICC line. These are long, plastic tubes that give the drugs directly into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place as long as you need it.

You have each cycle of treatment in the following way

On the first day you have

  • Carboplatin as a drip over about an hour
  • Methotrexate as an injection into the vein
  • Vinblastine as a drip over about 10 minutes

Two weeks later you have

  • Methotrexate as an injection into the vein
  • Vinblastine as a drip over about 10 minutes

Then one week later you have

  • Methotrexate as an injection into the bloodstream
  • Vinblastine as a drip over 10 minutes

Your next cycle of treatment then starts one week later.

The side effects of a combination of drugs are usually a mixture of those of each drug. The combination may increase or decrease your chance of getting each side effect or it may change the severity. The side effects associated with Carbo MV are listed below. You can use the underlined links to find out more about each one. For general information, see our side effects of cancer drugs section.


Common side effects

More than 10 out of 100 people have one or more of the following side effects.

  • An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, a sore throat, pain passing urine, or you may feel cold and shivery. If you have a severe infection this can be life threatening. Contact your treatment centre straight away if you have any of these effects or if your temperature goes above 38°C. You will have regular blood tests to check your blood cell levels
  • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion
  • Bruising more easily due to a drop in platelets – you may have nosebleeds, bleeding gums after brushing your teeth, or lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechia)
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) during and after treatment – most people find their energy levels are back to normal within 6 months to a year
  • Feeling or being sick, which is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines
  • Numbness or tingling in fingers and toes can cause difficulty with fiddly things such as doing up buttons – this starts within a few days or weeks. It usually goes within a few months of finishing treatment
  • Diarrhoea – drink plenty of fluids. Tell your doctor or nurse if the diarrhoea becomes severe or continues for more than 3 days
  • Constipation – your doctor or nurse may give you laxatives to help prevent this. Tell a member of your treatment team if you are constipated for more than 3 days
  • A sore mouth and ulcers
  • Kidney changes that are mild and unlikely to cause symptoms – they will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment finishes. You will have regular blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working
  • Loss of taste or a metallic taste
  • Women may stop having periods (amenorrhoea) but this may be temporary
  • Loss of 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
  • Sensitivity to sunlight –  don’t sit out in the sun, and do cover up or use sun block on exposed skin
  • Hair thinning or complete hair loss
  • Gritty eyes
  • Inflammation around the drip siteif you notice any signs of redness, pain, swelling or leaking at your drip site, tell your chemotherapy nurse straight away
  • Loss of appetite

Occasional side effects

Fewer than 10 out of 100 people have one or more of the following effects.

  • Skin changes, including a rash which may be itchy, and darkening or lightening of the skin
  • Liver changes that are very mild and unlikely to cause symptoms – the liver will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment finishes. You will have regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working
  • Loss of ability to hear some high pitched sounds, which usually gets better on its own
  • About 1 in 100 people (1%) have ringing in their ears (tinnitus)

Rare side effects

A very small number of people have an allergic reaction while having this chemotherapy, usually at the first or second treatment. Let your treatment team know straight away if you have any skin rashes or itching. Also tell them if you feel hot or shivery, or have redness of the face, dizziness, a headache, shortness of breath, anxiety, or a sudden need to pass urine.


Important points to remember

You may have 1 or 2 or a few of the side effects mentioned. A side effect may get worse through your course of treatment. Or you may have more side effects as the course goes on. This depends on

• How many times you've had a drug before
• Your general health
• How much of the drug you have (the dose)
• Other drugs you are having

Coping with side effects

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.

Other medicines

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.

Pregnancy and contraception

These drugs may 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.


Do not breastfeed during this treatment because the drugs may come through in the breast milk.


Immunisations and chemotherapy

You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having chemotherapy or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your chemotherapy. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.

It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.


Related information

On this website you can read about

bladder cancer





More information about Carbo MV drugs

This page does not list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at

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Updated: 2 July 2014