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Healthcare: Cancer Care

Supportive Therapies

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Note: Listed below are the drugs used in supportive therapies and their most common side effects. Other side effects may occur. Please report any persistent or severe problems to your physician.

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Growth Factors - Red Blood Cells

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Red blood cell growth factors are used to treat anemia (low red blood cell count). Your physician may use this medication to stimulate production of red cells that carry oxygen in your body. These drugs are usually given by injection under the skin (subcutaneously) every 1-3 weeks. There are two red blood cell growth factors used:

  • Aranesp (Darbepoetin Alfa)
  • Procrit (Epoetin Alfa)
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Possible Side Effects

  • Flu-like symptoms including headache, joint pain, weakness, dizziness and tiredness
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Skin rash
  • Pain at injection site
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Shortness of breath, chest discomfort
  • Swelling of extremities
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Growth Factors - White Blood Cells

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White blood cell growth factors are used to increase the production of white blood cells and results in a decreased risk of infection. They are given by injection under the skin (subcutaneously). There are two white blood cell growth factors available.

  • Neulasta (Pegfilgrastim)
  • Neupogen (Filgrastim)
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Possible Side Effects

  • Flu-like symptoms - fever, chills, fatigue, and headache
  • Mild on moderate bone pain which can be controlled with over the counter pain medicines such as Tylenol or ibuprofen
  • Injection site reaction - redness and discomfort
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Less Common Side Effect

  • Allergic reaction - rare
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Zometa (Zoledronic Acid)

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Zometa belongs to a group of drugs known as bisphosphonates. It is used to treat bone damage from cancer. It helps to strengthen weakened bone. Zometa is given as an infusion into the veins over approximately 15 minutes. Side effects are usually mild and subside within 24-48 hours.

Possible Side Effects

  • Flu-like syndrome with fever, chills, bones and/or muscle pain
  • Fatigue
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Less Common Side Effects

  • Change in kidney function
  • Decrease in blood levels: calcium, phosphate