Bleomycin, etoposide and platinum (BEP)

BEP is a chemotherapy combination treatment for men with testicular cancer. It includes the drugs we list below, next to each drug we have how you pronounce it in brackets. 

  • bleomycin (blee-o-my-sin)
  • etoposide (ee-top-o-side)
  • the platinum drug called cisplatin (sis-plat-in)

Doctors also use BEP to treat types of ovarian cancer called teratoma and sex cord stromal tumours. 

How does BEP work?

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

How do you have BEP?

You have these drugs into a vein (intravenously).

You might have treatment through a long plastic tube that goes into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment. This can be a:

  • central line
  • PICC line
  • portacath

How often do you have BEP?

You usually have BEP as a course of several cycles of treatment Open a glossary item. A cycle of treatment is the time between 1 round of treatment and the start of another. Usually each treatment cycle lasts 3 weeks (21 days). The first day of the treatment cycle is called day 1. 

You might have up to 4 treatment cycles. The number of cycles you have depends on:

  • which cancer you have
  • whether your cancer has spread
  • how well your cancer responds to BEP

You can have BEP in different ways. A common way of having BEP is:

Day 1
  • etoposide as an injection into your bloodstream (intravenously)
  • cisplatin as an injection into your bloodstream over 1 to 4 hours
  • bleomycin as an injection into your bloodstream (you might have bleomycin on day 2 instead of day 1)
Day 2
  • etoposide as an injection into your bloodstream
  • cisplatin as an injection into your bloodstream
Day 3
  • etoposide as an injection into your bloodstream
Day 8
  • bleomycin as an injection into your bloodstream
Day 15
  • bleomycin as an injection into your bloodstream

Another way of having BEP chemotherapy is:

Day 1
  • etoposide as an injection into your bloodstream
  • cisplatin as an injection into your bloodstream
  • bleomycin as an injection into your bloodstream (you might have bleomycin on day 2 instead of day 1)
Day 2
  • cisplatin as an injection into your bloodstream
  • etoposide as an injection into your bloodstream
Day 3, 4 and 5
  • etoposide as an injection into your bloodstream
  • cisplatin as an injection into your bloodstream
Day 8
  • bleomycin as an injection into your bloodstream
Day 15
  • bleomycin as an injection into your bloodstream


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.

You might have a chest x-ray before each treatment of BEP.

What are the side effects of BEP?

Side effects can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. 

When to contact your team

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:

  • you have severe side effects 

  • your side effects aren’t getting any better

  • your side effects are getting worse

Early treatment can help manage side effects better. 

Contact your advice line immediately if you have signs of infection, including a temperature above 37.5C or below 36C.

We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects. But you might have some of them at the same time.

Common side effects

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

Risk of infection

Increased risk of getting an infection is due to a drop in white blood cells. Symptoms include a change in temperature, aching muscles, headaches, feeling cold and shivery and generally unwell. You might have other symptoms depending on where the infection is.

Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your advice line urgently if you think you have an infection. 

Bruising and bleeding

This is due to a drop in the number of platelets in your blood. These blood cells help the blood to clot when we cut ourselves. You may have nosebleeds or bleeding gums after brushing your teeth. Or you may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechiae).

Breathlessness and tiredness

You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.

Feeling or being sick

Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. It might help to avoid fatty or fried foods, eat small meals and snacks and take regular sips of water. Relaxation techniques might also help.

It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treat it once it has started.

Loss of appetite and weight loss

You might not feel like eating and may lose weight. Eating several small meals and snacks throughout the day can be easier to manage. You can talk to a dietitian if you are concerned about your appetite or weight loss. 

Hair loss

You could lose all your hair. This includes your eyelashes, eyebrows, underarms, legs and sometimes pubic hair. Your hair will usually grow back once treatment has finished but it is likely to be softer. It may grow back a different colour or be curlier than before. 

Diarrhoea or constipation

Tell your healthcare team if you have diarrhoea or constipation. They can give you medicine to help. 

Lung problems

You might develop a cough or breathing problems. This could be due to infection, such as pneumonia or inflammation of the lungs (pneumonitis). 

Let your doctor or nurse know straight away if you suddenly become breathless or develop a cough.

Skin and nail changes

Skin problems include a skin rash, dry skin and itching. This usually goes back to normal when your treatment finishes. Your healthcare team can tell you what products you can use on your skin to help.

The colour of your skin might also get darker. And your skin might also thicken. 

There might be changes to the shapes and colour of your nails.

Tummy (abdominal) pain

You might get pain in the tummy (abdomen). Contact your healthcare advice line or tell a member of your healthcare team. 

Changes to how your liver works

You might have liver changes that are usually 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 the way your liver is working.

You might also have yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. 

Feeling weak and generally unwell

This is usually mild. You can do things to help yourself, including some gentle exercise. It’s important not to push yourself too hard and eat a well balanced diet.

Talk to your doctor or nurse if this effect is stopping you from doing your usual daily activities.

Changes to the amount of minerals in your blood

You may have changes in levels of minerals and salts in your blood, including low levels of sodium or high levels of uric acid (causing gout). You have regular blood tests during treatment to check this.

Sore mouth

It may be painful to swallow drinks or food. Painkillers and mouth washes can help to reduce the soreness and keep your mouth healthy. 

Inflammation of the lining of your throat, gut and bowels

The lining of your throat, gut and bowels might become sore and swollen. Contact your healthcare advice line or tell a member of your healthcare team if this happens. 

Inflamed sore fingertips

Your fingertips might become swollen and tender. Contact your healthcare advice line or tell a member of your healthcare team if this happens.

Hearing changes

You may get ringing in your ears (tinnitus). You may have some hearing loss, especially with high pitched sounds. 

These changes can be either temporary or permanent. Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice any changes.

Eye problems

You might have eye problems such as infections. 

Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any problems with your eyes. They can give you eye drops to help.

Occasional side effects

These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • an allergic reaction that can cause a rash, shortness of breath, redness or swelling of the face and dizziness. Some allergic reactions can be life threatening, alert your nurse or doctor if notice any of these symptoms.
  • blood clots that are life threatening; signs are pain, swelling and redness where the clot is. Feeling breathless can be a sign of a blood clot on the lung. Contact your advice line or doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms
  • fluid build up in different parts of the body (oedema)
  • developing a blood cancer (leukaemia)
  • heart problems such as your heart beating fast or slow and heart attack
  • high blood pressure. You might have low blood pressure during your etoposide treatment if it is given too quickly.
  • redness, swelling and pain around the injection site
  • headaches
  • dizziness

Rare side effects

These side effects happen in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • pain where the cancer is
  • confusion
  • low blood pressure
  • nerve changes causing pain or numbness in the hands, feet or both
  • blistering
  • scleroderma an autoimmune condition. It can cause areas of thick, hardened skin and sometimes weak muscles, stiff joints, problems with the bones, organs and blood vessels.
  • passing urine often, not being able to pass urine or discomfort when passing urine

Coping with side effects

We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.

What else do you need to know?

Other medicines, food and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with medicines, herbal products, and some food and drinks. We are unable to list all the possible interactions that may happen. An example is grapefruit or grapefruit juice which can increase the side effects of certain drugs.

Tell your healthcare team about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Also let them know about any other medical conditions or allergies you may have.

Loss of fertility 

You may not be able to become pregnant or get someone pregnant 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 might be able to store sperm before starting treatment. And women might be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue. But these services are not available in every hospital, so you would need to ask your doctor about this.    

Contraception and pregnancy

This treatment may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or get someone pregnant while you're having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment. Let them know straight away if you or your partner become pregnant while having treatment. 


Don’t breastfeed during this treatment. This is because the drugs may come through in your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions 

If you are having tests or treatment for anything else, always mention your cancer treatment. For example, if you are visiting your dentist.


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 one of the shingles vaccines called Zostavax.

You can have:

  • other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • the flu vaccine (as an injection)
  • the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to have it in relation to your cancer treatment

Members of your household who are aged 5 years or over are also able to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to help lower your risk of getting COVID-19 while having cancer treatment and until your immune system Open a glossary item recovers from treatment.

Contact with others who have had immunisations - You can 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 the oral typhoid vaccine. Sometimes people who have had the live shingles vaccine can get a shingles type rash. If this happens they should keep the area covered.

If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as this is a live vaccine. This is for 2 weeks following their vaccination.

Babies have the live rotavirus vaccine. The virus is in the baby’s poo for about 2 weeks and could make you ill if your immunity is low. Get someone else to change their nappies during this time if you can. If this isn't possible, wash your hands well after changing their nappy.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment and possible side effects go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website. You can find the patient information leaflet on this website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Related links