Vincristine sulfate (Generic Name)

Oncovin®, Vincasar®, VCR  (Other Names)

About This Drug

Vincristine is a drug used to treat cancer. It is given intravenously (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Constipation
  • Hair loss. Most patients experience scalp and body hair loss. You may notice hair thinning several days after receiving this drug. Usually hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.

Possible Side Effects  (Less Common)

  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that are painful.
  • Numbness, tingling, or decreased sensation in fingers and toes
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and/or feet
  • Skin and tissue irritation. You may have redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This irritation occurs if the drug leaks out of the vein and into surrounding tissue.
  • Blood pressure changes. Some patients have low blood pressure and some patients have high blood pressure.
  • Jaw pain
  • Nerve pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Blurred or double vision or other changes in vision are a rare side effect.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Drooping eyelids are a rare side effect.
  • Depression
  • Rash
  • Mild bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow depression may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Or the discomfort may go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes discomfort is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite; weight loss

Allergic Reactions

Serious allergic reactions including anaphylaxis are rare.  While you are receiving this drug by IV, tell your nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Difficulty catching your breath
  • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Flushing/itching/rash/hives

Reproductive Concerns

  • In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. 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 receiving this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.  Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking.
  • Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.  Vaginal lubricants can be  used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.
  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.  
  • Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.

Treating Side Effects

  • 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 every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated.
  • 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.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Do not put anything on your rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medication if your rash is bothersome.
  • Be careful when cooking, walking, and using sharp objects or hot liquids.
  • Speak with your nurse about obtaining 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 undergoing chemotherapy 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 vincristine with food. This drug may interact with other medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medication and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly 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 advice.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site while you are receiving this drug
  • No bowel movement in 3 days or when you feel uncomfortable.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Jaw pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Blurred or double vision or other changes in vision
  • Confusion; restlessness; irritability
  • Seizures; hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Rash
  • Chest pain or symptoms of a heart attack. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. Or the discomfort may go away and come back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. Sometimes discomfort is felt in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. If any of these symptoms last 2 minutes, call 911.

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in fingers, toes, joints, or testicles
  • Numbness, tingling, or decreased sensation in fingers or toes
  • Difficulty walking or changes in the way you walk
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and/or feet
  • Headache
  • Painful mouth or throat that makes it difficult to eat or drink
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Hearing changes
  • Depression
  • Trouble sleeping

Revised February 2013

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