Last Modified: January 14, 2012
Cancer cells from some tumors (most commonly breast, prostate and lung cancers) can spread to the bone, which is called bone metastasis. Multiple myeloma is a type of cancer affecting plasma cells, which are found in the bone marrow, and thus directly involves bone. In both of these situations the cancer cells cause breakdown or wearing away of the normal bone. In turn, affected bones become more fragile; they may be painful and can even break due to the damage from the cancer cells. Pamidronate is a type of drug called a bisphosphonate, which is used to slow the destruction of bone caused by cancer cells.
Pamidronate is given directly into a vein as an infusion, over 15 minutes, every 3-4 weeks. In addition, your healthcare provider may want you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements to help with your bone health. Talk with your team about what doses are right for you. You should drink plenty of fluids while taking this medication. Try to drink 8-10 glasses of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated liquids a day.
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Pamidronate. 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:
More than half of the people receiving this medication experience fever and chills after the first infusion, which may be accompanied by muscle aches (also called myalgias). Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) may be used to relieve these side effects. Ask your healthcare team if you are able to take these medications if side effects occur. Many patients do not have these side effects after subsequent infusions.
Pamidronate can cause imbalances in the electrolytes calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. This medication can also affect the kidneys, causing a rise in serum creatinine (a laboratory value that measures kidney function). Your healthcare team will periodically check these levels with blood tests and may give you supplemental electrolytes or reduce the dose of this medication.
While on cancer treatment you may need to adjust your schedule to manage fatigue. Plan times to rest during the day and conserve energy for more important activities. Exercise can help combat fatigue; a simple daily walk with a friend can help. Talk to your healthcare team and see OncoLinkÕs section on fatigue for helpful tips on dealing with this side effect.
Osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) is a rare side effect, however, it is important that you know about it and take steps to protect your dental health. The maxilla (upper jaw bone) and mandible (lower jaw bone) are normally covered by gum tissue. In the case of ONJ, this tissue is gone and the bone is exposed. Typical symptoms associated with ONJ are: pain, swelling or infection of the gums, loosening of the teeth, exposed bone (often at the site of a previous tooth extraction). Some patients may report numbness or tingling in the jaw or a "heavy" feeling jaw. ONJ may have no symptoms for weeks or months and may only be recognized by the presence of exposed bone. ONJ most often occurs soon after a dental procedure, but this is not required to develop ONJ.