Vinblastine Sulfate (Generic Name)

Other Names: Velban®, Velbe®

About This Drug

Vinblastine is a drug used to treat cancer. It is given in the vein (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Constipation (not able to move bowels)
  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding.
  • Hair loss. Most patients have some degree of hair loss. You may notice hair getting thin or you may lose your hair. Your hair often grows back when treatment is done.
  • High blood pressure. Your doctor will check your blood pressure as needed.
  • Generalized weakness and discomfort (aches or pains)
  • Jaw, bone or tumor pain

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Skin and tissue irritation. You may have redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This happens if the drug leaks out of the vein and into nearby tissue.
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that hurt.
  • Effects on the nerves are called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness, tingling, or pain in your hands and feet. It may be hard for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk as usual. The effect on the nerves may get worse with more doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it does not get better in all people.
  • Seizures. Common symptoms of a seizure can include confusion, blacking out, passing out, loss of hearing or vision, blurred vision, unusual smells or tastes (such as burning rubber), trouble talking, tremors or shaking in parts or all of the body, repeated body movements, tense muscles that do not relax, and loss of control of urine and bowels. There are other less common symptoms of seizures. If you or your family member suspects you are having a seizure, call 911 right away.
  • Depression, feeling nervous (anxiety), or other mood changes
  • Muscle pain or weakness
  • Hearing loss
  • Hoarseness
  • Blurred or double vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Drooping eyelids are a rare side effect
  • Sensitivity to light (photosensitivity). Photosensitivity means that you may become more sensitive to the light from the sun, sun lamps, and tanning beds. Your eyes may water more, mostly in bright light.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Mild nausea and vomiting 
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Skin blistering
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. The pain may go away and come back or it can be constant. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes pain is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Stroke. Symptoms of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden bad headache with no known cause.  If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911. 
  • Urinary retention. You may not completely empty your bladder of urine.
  • Lack of appetite, weight loss
  • Taste changes such as a metallic taste in your mouth

Treating Side Effects

  • While you are getting this drug in your IV, please tell your nurse right away if you have any pain, redness, or swelling at the site of the IV infusion.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse how to prevent or lessen constipation. Constipation can become a serious side effect. If you are constipated, 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).
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for medicines that help lessen the pain of a headache, muscle pain, back pain, or other pain.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of gently cleaning your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of ½ teaspoon salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that has alcohol. Also avoid alcohol and smoking because they can bother your mouth and throat.
  • If you get a rash do not put anything it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if the rash bothers you.
  • 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.
  • If you have numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.
  • Talk with your nurse about getting a wig before you lose your hair.  Also, call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 to find out information about the “Look Good, Feel Better” program close to where you live. It is a free program where women getting chemotherapy can learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of vinblastine 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:

  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site while you are getting this drug
  • No bowel movement in 3 days or when you feel uncomfortable.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Chills
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Easy bleeding or bruising
  • Jaw pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Rash
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. The pain may go away and come back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes pain is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Symptoms of a stroke such as sudden numbness or weakness of your face, arm, or leg, mostly on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, feeling dizzy, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden, bad headache with no known cause.  If you have any of these symptoms for 2 minutes, call 911. 
  • Seizures

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of these symtpoms:

  • Pain in fingers, toes, joints, or testicles
  • Numbness, tingling, decreased sensation, or increased coldness of your fingers, hands, feet, or toes Numbness, tingling, decreased feeling or weakness in fingers, toes, arms, or legs; or if you have increased cold sensations in your fingers, toes, hands or feet
  • Trouble walking or changes in the way you walk
  • Skin blistering
  • Not completely emptying your bladder when you urinate
  • Headache
  • Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
  • Nausea and vomiting that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Hearing changes
  • Depression
  • Weakness that interferes with your daily activities

Reproduction Concerns

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on an unborn baby, so effective methods of birth control should be used by both men and women during your cancer treatment and for at least 3 months after treatment.
  • 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.

 Revised November 2014

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