Vincristine sulfate (Generic Name)

Other Names: Oncovin®, Vincasar®, VCR

About This Drug

Vincristine 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)
  • Hair loss. You may notice hair getting thin. Some patients lose their hair. Your hair often grows back when treatment is done. Most often hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is done.
  • 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.

Possible Side Effects  (Less Common)

  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that hurt.
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and/or feet
  • Skin and tissue irritation may involve redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This happens if the drug leaks out of the vein and into nearby tissue.
  • Blood pressure changes. Some patients have low blood pressure and some patients have high blood pressure.
  • Jaw pain
  • Hoarseness
  • Blurred or double vision or other changes in eyesight may happen but are a rare side effect.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Drooping eyelids are a rare side effect.
  • Depression
  • Rash
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite; weight loss

Allergic Reactions

Serious allergic reactions including anaphylaxis are rare.  While you are getting this drug in your vein (IV), tell your nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
  • Feeling your heart beat quickly  or in a not normal way (palpitations)
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Flushing, itching, rash, and/or hives

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).
  • 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. This should be done at least after each meal and at bedtime.
  • 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 on it unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
  • 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 known interactions of Vincristine with grapefruit. Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking this drug.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist about all other prescription medicines and dietary supplements you are taking before starting this medicine as there are a lot of known drug interactions with Vincristine. Also, check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting any new prescription, over-the-counter medicines, or dietary supplement to make sure that there are no interactions.

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 confused, restless, or irritable
  • 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).
  • Hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not really there)
  • Feeling
  • 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.

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

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

Reproduction Concerns

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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