Cyclophosphamide Usage + Side Effects
The beginning of chemotherapy treatments is a scary time in anyone’s life, not least because of the uncertainty surrounding the effects of those chemo drugs on a patient’s body. Many of those who undergo this type of cancer treatment report a range of debilitating side effects, ranging from a loss of body hair to lasting nerve pain, but it can be hard to predict just what a specific drug might do to a particular patient. Of course, these medications are also instrumental in defeating cancer in many patients, so they’re generally worth the suffering in the long run; still, someone about to take a chemo drug, such as cyclophosphamide, will probably want to know what they might expect during treatment. So, what is cyclophosphamide? How is it used? What are its most common side effects? To find out the answers to these questions and others, keep reading as the team at Chemo Mouthpiece™, makers of a medical device for chemo mouth sores, discusses this difficult topic.
What is Cyclophosphamide Used For?
If you or a loved one is about to begin receiving chemotherapy, there’s a chance that the drug being used is cyclophosphamide – also known by the brand names Cytoxan or Neosar. It’s used in the treatment of a wide variety of cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma (including Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s), and cancers of the breast, ovaries, eye, bone marrow, and nerve tissue. Because it’s used to fight a number of different types of cancer, cyclophosphamide is often administered in one of two ways: by taking a tablet or through an intravenous injection or infusion. In rare cases, Cytoxan may also be injected directly into the muscle tissue or the lining of the lung or abdomen1.
Cyclophosphamide is an example of what’s called an alkylating agent, one of the oldest kinds of chemo drugs. This medication is designed to damage the DNA structures in cancer cells, which are especially sensitive to damage2. An alkylating agent like Cytoxan will react with the proteins that form DNA’s structure – the famous double helix – thereby causing the DNA strand to break apart, at which point the cancer cell dies. In practice, the ultimate effect of drugs like cyclophosphamide is that they stop cancer cells from multiplying.
Side Effects of Cyclophosphamide
Like other medications used in chemotherapy, cyclophosphamide can cause a number of detrimental effects in many of the body’s systems. That’s because chemo is an example of a “systemic” treatment, or one that affects the entire body – a result of the circulation of chemo medications through the bloodstream. Because chemotherapy is used to attack the fast-growing cells found in tumors, healthy tissues that display a similar rate of growth are often affected by drugs like cyclophosphamide, namely those in the hair, finger and toe nails, bone marrow, and digestive tract.
However, a single drug can affect ten different people in ten different ways, so you may see few, if any, of the chemo side effects common to a particular medication. The following are some of the most common side effects3 of Cytoxan:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Oral mucositis
- Abdominal pain
- Hair loss
- Changes in the color of your skin or nails
- Disruptions to the menstrual cycle
In addition to the most common side effects, people on cyclophosphamide also report a variety of more serious symptoms, including unusual bleeding or bruising, difficulty breathing, swelling in the legs or feet, chest pain, and blood in the urine or stool. If you see any of these symptoms, or if you experience another sudden or unexplained effect, be sure to talk to your doctor or oncologist right away.
Long-Lasting Effects of Cyclophosphamide
In rare cases, chemo drugs (including cyclophosphamide) can cause lasting harm to the body. Whether a person will develop these more serious effects generally depends on the dose of Cytoxan they’re on; higher doses tend to correlate with a higher chance4 of having one of these issues, though – again – this does not happen in the vast majority of patients.
One of the side effects that can last beyond the chemo regimen is a loss of fertility, which can happen to both men and women. It is also possible that those who take cyclophosphamide to develop leukemia or myelodysplasia1 later in life as a result of the DNA-damaging effects of the drug; the risk of this is typically highest about five to 10 years after receiving the initial treatment4.
Tips for Relieving the Side Effects of Cyclophosphamide
While there may be little you can do to prevent the side effects of Cytoxan, a few adjustments to your lifestyle during chemo may go a long way to relieving your symptoms. If you’re experiencing nausea, for instance, try to eat small meals every few hours, rather than a few large ones. It is also important for those on cyclophosphamide to empty their bladder frequently within the first 24 hours after receiving a dose, as doing so will help ward off side effects in the kidney and bladder6.
Try an Oral Cryotherapy Device to Fight Mouth Sores Caused by Chemo
One of the most effective methods of limiting the severity of mouth sores during chemo is cryotherapy. By applying freezing temperatures to the tissues of the mouth during a chemo infusion, a patient can shrink the blood vessels there, keeping much of the chemo medication out of the area and fighting oral mucositis before it starts. To learn more about the benefits of cryotherapy during chemo and how the device like the Chemo Mouthpiece™ can help you or a loved one, visit us online or call (866) 461-7518 today.