Cetuximab (Generic Name)
Other Names: Erbitux™
About This Drug
Cetuximab is used to treat cancer. It is given in the vein (IV).
Possible Side Effects (More Common)
- While you are getting this drug in your vein (IV), you may have a reaction to the drug. Your nurse will check you closely for these signs: fever or shaking chills, flushing, facial swelling, feeling dizzy, headache, trouble breathing, rash, itching, chest tightness, or chest pain.
- A rash that looks like acne may happen on your face and upper back when taking this medicine. Your doctor can give you medicine to help treat this.
- Darkening of the skin or nails
- Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). Photosensitivity means that you may become more sensitive to the effects of the sun, sun lamps, and tanning beds. Your eyes may water more, mostly in bright light.
- Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
- Electrolyte changes. Your blood will be checked for electrolyte changes as needed.
Possible Side Effects (Less Common)
- Changes in lung tissue may happen with large amounts of this drug. These changes may not last forever, and your lung tissue may go back to normal. Sometimes these changes may not be seen for many years. You may get a cough or have trouble catching your breath.
- Weakness that interferes with your daily activities
- Constipation (not able to move bowels)
- Nausea and throwing up (vomiting). These symptoms may happen within a few hours after your treatment and may last up to 24 hours. Medicines are available to stop or lessen these side effects.
- Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that hurt.
- Decreased appetite
- While you are getting this drug by IV, you may have a reaction. Your nurse will check you closely for the following symptoms: fever or shaking chills, flushing, facial swelling, dizziness, headache, trouble breathing, rash, itching, chest tightness, or chest pain.
- These reactions may happen for 24 hours following your infusion. Call 911 for emergency care.
Treating Side Effects
- Ask your doctor or nurse about medicines that are available to help stop or lessen constipation.
- If you are not able to move your bowels, check with your doctor or nurse before you use enemas, laxatives, or suppositories
- Drink 6-8 cups of fluids each day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body from losing too much fluid).
- If you get a rash do not put anything on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor or nurse for medicine if the rash bothers you.
- Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of regular, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after every meal and at bedtime.
- If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can bother your mouth and throat.
- Wear dark sunglasses and use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when you are outdoors even for a short time. Cover up when you are out in the sun. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Keep your neck, chest, and back covered.
- Avoid sun lamps, tanning booths, and tanning beds.
- Use effective methods of birth control during your cancer treatment.
Food and Drug Interactions
There are no known interactions of cetuximab with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor’s help.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:
- Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) orhigher
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
- Rash or itching
- Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
- Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or feeling lightheaded
- Throwing up more than 3 times a day
Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms:
- Increased cough
- Headache that does not go away
- Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
- Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
- Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
- No bowel movement for 3 days, or you feel uncomfortable
- Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities
- Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns
- Infertility Warning: Sexual problems and reproduction concerns may happen. In both men and women, this drug may affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your treatment. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children. Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
- In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations.
- In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are getting this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.
- Women may go through signs of menopause (change of life) like vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.
- Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy
- Pregnancy warning: It is not known if this drug may harm an unborn child. For this reason, be sure to talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant while getting this drug.
- Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.
Whenever you tell a doctor or nurse your health history, always include that you have received cetuximab.
Revised July 2014