​Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG)

Other Names: TheraCys®, Tice®

About This Drug 

(BCG) is used to treat bladder cancer. It is given into the bladder.

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Flu-like symptoms: fever, headache, muscle and joint aches, and fatigue (low energy, feeling weak)
  • 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.
  • Effects on the bladder. This drug may cause irritation and bleeding in the bladder. You may have blood in your urine. To help stop this, you will get extra fluids to help you pass more urine
  • Urinary tract infection (bladder infection).  Symptoms may include:
    • Pain or burning when you pass urine
    • Feeling like you have to pass urine often, but not much comes out when you do.
    • Tender or heavy feeling in your lower abdomen
    • Cloudy urine and/or urine that smells bad.
    • Pain on one side of your back under your ribs. This is where your kidneys are.
    •  Fever, chills, nausea and/or throwing up
  • Generalized weakness and discomfort (aches or pains).
  •  Nausea and throwing up (vomiting).

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • This drug may affect how your kidneys work. Your kidney function will be checked as needed.
  • Giving this drug when the bladder lining is already bleeding may lead to infection or sepsis
  • 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.
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days

Treating Side Effects

  • 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 symptoms of a bladder infection, please call your doctor or nurse right away. You may be given antibiotics to treat the infection and/or medicines to help the symptoms.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine that is available to help stop or lessen fever, headache, muscle and joint aches.
  • If you are dizzy, get up slowly after sitting or lying.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of BCG 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) or higher
  • Rash or itching
  • Chills

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if any of these symptoms happen:

  • Decreased urine
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities

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