Etoposide (By mouth)
Treats testicle cancer, lung cancer, lymphomas, nonlymphocytic leukemia, and other kinds of cancer. Also called VP-16.
There may be other brand names for this medicine.
When This Medicine Should Not Be Used
You should not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to etoposide.
How to Use This Medicine
Capsule, Liquid Filled Capsule
- Medicines used to treat cancer are very strong and can have many side effects. Before receiving this medicine, make sure you understand all the risks and benefits. It is important for you to work closely with your doctor during your treatment.
- Your doctor will tell you how much of this medicine to use and how often. Do not use more medicine or use it more often than your doctor tells you to.
- Etoposide is sometimes given together with certain other medicines. If you are using a combination of medicines, make sure that you take each one at the proper time and do not mix them. If you are taking some of these medicines by mouth, ask your doctor to help you plan a way to remember to take your medicines at the right times.
- Always wear impervious gloves when handling the blisterpacks containing the capsules. This would prevent exposure to the medicine.
- You may also receive medicines to help prevent nausea and vomiting.
If a dose is missed:
- This medicine needs to be given on a fixed schedule. If you miss a dose, call your doctor for instructions.
- If you vomit after taking your medicine, call your doctor or pharmacist for instructions.
How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine
- Store the capsules in the refrigerator. Do not freeze them.
- Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any leftover medicine after you have finished your treatment. You will also need to throw away old medicine after the expiration date has passed.
- Keep all medicine away from children and never share your medicine with anyone.
Drugs and Foods to Avoid
Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.
- Make sure your doctor knows if you are also using cyclosporine (Gengraf®, Neoral®, Sandimmune®).
- Talk to your doctor before getting flu shots or other vaccines while you are receiving this medicine. Vaccines may not work as well, or they could make you ill while you are using this medicine.
Warnings While Using This Medicine
- Using this medicine while you are pregnant can harm your unborn baby. Use an effective form of birth control to keep from getting pregnant. If you think you have become pregnant while using the medicine, tell your doctor right away.
- Make sure your doctor knows if you are breastfeeding, or if you have kidney disease, liver disease, any type of infection, or a history of low albumin (plasma protein).
- This medicine may cause a serious type of allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Tell your doctor right away if you have chills, fever, lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting, fast heartbeat, swelling of the face, tongue, or throat, or trouble with breathing after taking the medicine.
- This medicine lowers the number of some types of blood cells in your body. Because of this, you may bleed or get infections more easily. To help with these problems, avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Wash your hands often. Stay away from rough sports or other situations where you could be bruised, cut, or injured. Brush and floss your teeth gently. Be careful when using sharp objects, including razors and fingernail clippers.
- This medicine may cause leukemia (cancer of the blood or bone marrow) in rare cases. Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about this.
- This medicine may make your mouth sore and irritated. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush or mouth swab.
- Cancer medicines can cause nausea and/or vomiting in most people, sometimes even after receiving medicines to prevent it. Ask your doctor or nurse about other ways to control these side effects. If the medicine does not help (you can't keep liquids down), call your doctor.
- Your doctor will need to check your blood at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments.
Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine
Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:
- Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
- Blistering, peeling, or red skin rash.
- Blood in the urine or stools.
- Blue fingernails, lips, skin, palms, or nail beds.
- Blurred vision or changes in vision.
- Confusion, restlessness, or loss of consciousness.
- Fast, slow, pounding, or uneven heartbeat.
- Increased sweating, or shivering.
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.
- Numbness, tingling, or burning pain in your hands, arms, legs, or feet.
- Painful mouth sores that keep you from drinking liquids.
- Seizures or tremors.
- Severe diarrhea.
- Shortness of breath, trouble with breathing, chest or throat tightness, or wheezing.
- Swelling in your face, mouth, or tongue.
- Trouble with swallowing.
- Unexplained fever, chills, cough, or sore throat.
- Unusual bleeding or bruising.
- Unusual tiredness or weakness.
- Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.
If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:
- Back pain.
- Bad or unusual taste in your mouth.
- Constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain.
- Hair loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Mild skin rash, itching, or hives.
- Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness.
- Warmth or redness in your face, neck, arms, or upper chest.
If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088
- Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013
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This page was last updated: June 18, 2013