Find out what BEAM chemotherapy is, how you have it and other important information about having BEAM chemotherapy.
BEAM is the name of a combination of chemotherapy drugs that includes:
- B – Carmustine (BiCNU)
- E – Etoposide
- A – Cytarabine (Ara-C, cytosine arabinoside)
- M – Melphalan
BEAM is a treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
You normally have BEAM chemotherapy before a stem cell transplant.
When Lomustine is used instead of Carmustine, the combination is called LEAM.
Lomustine comes as blue capsules. You should keep them in a tightly closed container and out of the reach of children. You take the capsules on an empty stomach at bedtime. They should be swallowed whole with plenty of water. Your doctor will tell you the dose and when to take them.
Variations of BEAM and LEAM
Mini-BEAM uses the same drugs as BEAM but at lower doses.
This is the same as mini-BEAM with the steroid dexamethasone added to it.
Mini- BEAM and Dexa-BEAM are given as cycles of treatment.
Each cycle is 21 or 28 days.
How you have BEAM
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 may 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 your tablets or capsules
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.
Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.
When you have treatment
- carmustine as a drip into your bloodstream over 2 hours
- cytarabine as a drip into your bloodstream over 30 minutes twice a day
- etoposide as a drip into your bloodstream over 2 hours
- melphalan as a drip into your bloodstream over 15 to 30 minutes
About 24 hours after the melphalan you have your stem cells.
You usually stay in hospital during the 7 days of treatment and for 2 to 3 weeks afterwards. This completes one cycle of treatment.
You may hear your doctors name the days slightly differently. So that the first day of treatment is called minus 7 and they count down to the day you have the stem cells on Day 0.
You have blood tests before 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.
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 might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you're having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
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.
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.
Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drugs may come through in your breast milk.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and the shingles vaccine (Zostavax).
- have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- have the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections
Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as oral polio or the typhoid vaccine.
This also includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s poo for up to 2 weeks and could 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 should also avoid close contact with children who have had the flu vaccine nasal spray. You should do so for 2 weeks following their vaccination if you have a severely weakened immune system.
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.