| Last Modified: January 14, 2012
Oxaliplatin is a type of platinum chemotherapy, which are heavy metal compounds that inhibit synthesis of RNA, DNA, and protein in cells. All of these are vital for cells to divide and grow. By preventing them from dividing, the medication can stop the cancer from growing.
How to Take Oxaliplatin
Oxaliplatin is given by intravenous (into a vein) infusion over a period of about 2 hours. It is often given in combination with other chemotherapy medications such as fluorouracil and irinotecan. The dosage and schedule is determined by the personÕs size, type of cancer, and mode of administration.
Possible Side Effects of Oxaliplatin
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Oxaliplatin. Talk to your doctor or nurse about these recommendations. They can help you decide what will work best for you. These are some of the most common side effects:
Low White Blood Cell Count (Leukopenia or Neutropenia)
White blood cells (WBC) are important for fighting infection. While receiving treatment, your WBC count can drop, putting you at a higher risk of getting an infection. You should let your doctor or nurse know right away if you have a fever (temperature greater than 100.4¡), sore throat or cold, shortness of breath, cough, burning with urination, or a sore that doesn't heal.
Tips to preventing infection:
For more suggestions, read the Neutropenia Tip Sheet.
Low Red Blood Cell Count (Anemia)
Your red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in your body. When the red cell count is low, you may feel tired or weak. You should let your doctor or nurse know if you experience any shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or pain in your chest. If the count gets too low, you may receive a blood transfusion. Read the anemia tip sheet for more information.
Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)
Platelets help your blood clot, so when the count is low you are at a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any excess bruising or bleeding, including nose bleeds, bleeding gums or blood in your urine or stool. If the platelet count becomes too low, you may receive a transfusion of platelets.
Read the thrombocytopenia tip sheet for more information.
Nausea and/or Vomiting
Take anti-nausea medications as prescribed. If you continue to have nausea or vomiting, notify your doctor or nurse so they can help you manage this side effect. In addition, dietary changes may help. Avoid things that may worsen the symptoms, such as heavy or greasy/fatty, spicy or acidic foods (lemons, tomatoes, oranges). Try antacids, (e.g. milk of magnesia, calcium tablets such as Tums), saltines, or ginger ale to lessen symptoms. Read the Nausea & Vomiting Tip Sheet for more suggestions.
Call your doctor or nurse if you are unable to keep fluids down for more than 12 hours or if you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time.
Your oncology team can recommend medications to relieve diarrhea. Also, try eating low-fiber, bland foods, such as white rice and boiled or baked chicken. Avoid raw fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads, cereals and seeds. Soluble fiber is found in some foods that absorbs fluid and can help relieve diarrhea. Foods high in soluble fiber include: applesauce, bananas (ripe), canned fruit, orange and grapefruit sections, boiled potatoes, white rice and products made with white flour, oatmeal, cream of rice, cream of wheat, and farina. Drink 8-10 glasses on non-alcoholic, un-caffeinated fluid a day to prevent dehydration. Read Low Fiber Diet for Diarrhea for more tips.
Numbness or Tingling in the Hands, Feet and Throat
The drug can causes a side effect called neuropathy, which can occur for a few days after treatment or continue between treatments. This neuropathy can be described as: "pins and needles", numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands, feet, mouth, and throat. Some patients will experience difficulty swallowing. Symptoms are often triggered or aggravated by exposure to cold (drinking a cold drink can trigger a feeling of spasm in the throat, or touching a cold steering wheel could cause numbness or tingling of the hands). Patients may have changes in proprioception, which is the ability of the body to be aware of its position. For instance, you can button a shirt without looking because your fingers know how they are bending and moving to perform the task -- this is called proprioception. Without proprioception, your body would not be able to tell the position of the fingers without looking at them. These symptoms are caused by damage to the nerves in the hands and feet. Neuropathy usually resolves gradually over the months following the discontinuation of treatment, but can become permanent. Be sure to tell your oncology team about any neuropathy symptoms, as this may require dose changes to prevent long-term damage.
See OncoLink's section on neuropathy for tips on dealing with this side effect.
Other Side Effects
Some less common side effects that have been reported include: alopecia (loss or thinning of scalp and body hair), allergic-type reaction, and sexual/reproductive changes.