Last Modified: August 22, 2011
Classification: Alkylating Agent
Ifosfamide exerts its anti-cancer affect by a process called alkylation. Alkylation damages the DNA of cells, which prevents them from dividing and causes them to die. Since cancer cells, in general, divide faster and with less error correcting than healthy cells, cancer cells are more sensitive to this damage.
Ifosfamide is given by intravenous (into a vein) infusion. The dosage and schedule is determined by the person's size and type of cancer. It can be given alone or with other drugs.
There are a number of things you can do to manage the side effects of Ifosfamide. 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:
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 F), 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.
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.
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 nosebleeds, bleeding gums or blood in your urine or stool. If your platelet count becomes too low, you may receive a transfusion of platelets.
Read the thrombocytopenia tip sheet for more information.
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 hair may become thin, brittle, or may fall out. This typically begins two to three weeks after treatment starts. This hair loss can be all body hair, including pubic, underarm, legs/arms, eyelashes, and nose hairs. The use of scarves, wigs, hats and hairpieces may help. Hair generally starts to regrow soon after treatment is completed. Remember your hair helps keep you warm in cold weather, so a hat is particularly important in cold weather or to protect you from the sun. Read more on alopecia.
This drug can affect your reproductive system, resulting in the menstrual cycle or sperm production becoming irregular or stopping permanently. Women may experience menopausal effects including hot flashes and vaginal dryness - read more about coping with vaginal dryness. In addition, the desire for sex may decrease during treatment.
Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment, even if your menstrual cycle stops or you believe your sperm is affected. You may want to consider sperm banking or egg harvesting if you may wish to have a child in the future. Discuss these options with your oncology team. See OncoLink's section on sexuality for helpful tips for dealing with these side effects.
Ifosfamide can irritate the kidneys and damage the lining of the bladder, causing you to have blood in your urine. Intravenous fluids may be given with your treatment to flush the kidneys and bladder. A medication called Mesna may be given to protect the bladder. Drink 6-8 glasses of fluid a day. Urinate every 2-3 hours. Call your doctor or nurse if you have difficulty urinating or have blood in your urine.
In rare cases, ifosfamide can be toxic to the nervous system. This can range from mild confusion, drowsiness, hallucinations and personality changes to seizure and coma. Toxicity can develop immediately after treatment up to several days later. Your caregiver should be aware of this rare side effect and know to report any changes in your behavior to your healthcare team right away.
There is a small risk of developing leukemia or other type of blood cancer due to treatment with this medication.