What Vincristine is and what it is used for?
- Vincristine is a member of the vinca alkaloids derived from the periwinkle plant. This medicine binds to the tubulin and inhibits microtubule assembly, thus stopping a cell from separating into two new cells, eventually causing cell death. This cell damage slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.
- Vincristine can be given alone or in combination with other medicines to treat many cancers, including acute leukemia, Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, neuroblastoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, Ewing's sarcoma, Wilm's tumor, multiple myeloma, chronic leukemia, thyroid cancer, brain cancer, ovarian germ cell cancer.
How Vincristine is given?
- Vincristine is given as an infusion into a vein over several minutes.
- Vincristine should never be injected into the spine since fetal reactions had happened before.
What should I know while receiving Vincristine?
- Do use vincristine when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months after the treatment ends.
- If vincristine leaks into the skin, it can cause severe tissue damage and blistering. Tell your nurse right away if you get pain, tenderness or redness at the place where the injection is given.
- You will have regular blood tests to make sure you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive this medicine. The timing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or other side effects.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of vincristine. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially if you have liver, kidney, heart, nerve, or breathing problems.
Common side effects
- Hair loss
It may begin 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. Your hair will usually grow back after treatment has finished.
Constipation can be accompanied by abdominal cramps or bloating. Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve constipation. If you have no bowel movement for 2-3 days or have severe abdominal pain, you should seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Nausea and vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Weakness and fatigue
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
- Peripheral neuropathy
Vincristine can cause nerve damage. It usually start in the fingers or toes and may spread up to the arms or legs. Symptoms often described as numbness, tingling, or burning sensation in the hands or feet. This may last as long as therapy is continued and may become more severe. The symptoms usually get better slowly after treatment has ended, but for some people it never goes away completely. Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms and protect areas where sensation is decreased.
Less common side effects
- Mouth sore
Your doctor can give you medicines that help you ease the discomfort. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
- Loss of appetite
Try to eat in small quantities and have frequent meals. If your appetite does not get any better after a few days, tell your doctor.
- Taste alteration
Foods may taste differently or you may have a metallic taste in the mouth. Taste may return slowly after the treatment has ended.
- Jaw pain
Vincristine may affect the cranial nerve. Tell your doctor if you have pain in gums or jaw.
- Many drugs may interact with vincristine. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarette smoking during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.
- Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking beverages containing grapefruit. This is because grapefruits can affect how vincristine works and can worsen the side effects.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day can help make your recovery a smoother process.