Erbitux - Cetuximab Injection
What is this medication?
CETUXIMAB (se TUX i mab) treats head and neck cancer. It may also be used to treat colorectal cancer. It works by blocking a protein that causes cancer cells to grow and multiply. This helps to slow or stop the spread of cancer cells. It is a monoclonal antibody.
This medicine may be used for other purposes; ask your health care provider or pharmacist if you have questions.
COMMON BRAND NAME(S): Erbitux
What should I tell my care team before I take this medication?
They need to know if you have any of these conditions:
- Heart disease
- History of tick bites
- Low levels of calcium, magnesium, or potassium in the blood
- Lung disease
- Red meat allergy
- An unusual or allergic reaction to cetuximab, other medications, foods, dyes, or preservatives
- Pregnant or trying to get pregnant
How should I use this medication?
This medication is infused into a vein. It is given by your care team in a hospital or clinic setting.
Talk to your care team about the use of this medication in children. Special care may be needed.
Overdosage: If you think you have taken too much of this medicine contact a poison control center or emergency room at once.
NOTE: This medicine is only for you. Do not share this medicine with others.
What if I miss a dose?
Keep appointments for follow-up doses. It is important not to miss your dose. Call your care team if you are unable to keep an appointment.
What may interact with this medication?
Interactions are not expected.
This list may not describe all possible interactions. Give your health care provider a list of all the medicines, herbs, non-prescription drugs, or dietary supplements you use. Also tell them if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use illegal drugs. Some items may interact with your medicine.
What should I watch for while using this medication?
Visit your care team for regular checks on your progress. This medication may make you feel generally unwell. This is not uncommon, as chemotherapy can affect healthy cells as well as cancer cells. Report any side effects. Continue your course of treatment even though you feel ill unless your care team tells you to stop. You may need blood work done while you are taking this medication.
This medication can make you more sensitive to the sun. Keep out of the sun while taking this medication and for 2 months after the last dose. If you cannot avoid being in the sun, wear protective clothing and sunscreen. Do not use sun lamps, tanning beds, or tanning booths.
This medication can cause serious infusion reactions. To reduce the risk, your care team may give you other medications to take before receiving this one. Be sure to follow the directions of your care team.
This medication may cause serious skin reactions. They can happen weeks to months after starting the medication. Contact your care team right away if you notice fevers or flu-like symptoms with a rash. The rash may be red or purple and then turn into blisters or peeling of the skin. You may also notice a red rash with swelling of the face, lips, or lymph nodes in your neck or under your arms.
Talk to your care team if you may be pregnant. Serious birth defects can occur if you take this medication during pregnancy and for 2 months after the last dose. You will need a negative pregnancy test before starting this medication. Contraception is recommended while taking this medication and for 2 months after the last dose. Your care team can help you find the option that works for you.
Do not breastfeed while taking this medication and for 2 months after the last dose.
This medication may cause infertility. Talk to your care team if you are concerned about your fertility.
What side effects may I notice from receiving this medication?
Side effects that you should report to your care team as soon as possible:
- Allergic reactions—skin rash, itching, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Dry cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Heart attack—pain or tightness in the chest, shoulders, arms, or jaw, nausea, shortness of breath, cold or clammy skin, feeling faint or lightheaded
- Infusion reactions—chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, feeling faint or lightheaded
- Low calcium level—muscle pain or cramps, confusion, tingling, or numbness in the hands or feet
- Low magnesium level—muscle pain or cramps, unusual weakness or fatigue, fast or irregular heartbeat, tremors
- Low potassium level—muscle pain or cramps, unusual weakness or fatigue, fast or irregular heartbeat, constipation
- Redness, blistering, peeling, or loosening of the skin, including inside the mouth
Side effects that usually do not require medical attention (report to your care team if they continue or are bothersome):
- Joint pain
- Unusual weakness or fatigue
- Weight loss
This list may not describe all possible side effects. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Where should I keep my medication?
This medication is given in a hospital or clinic. It will not be stored at home.
NOTE: This sheet is a summary. It may not cover all possible information. If you have questions about this medicine, talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or health care provider.
Additional Information From Chemocare.com About Erbitux
- Drink at least two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
- It is important to void (empty your bladder) frequently. Report any pain or burning on urination to your health care provider.
- Keep palms of hands and soles of feet moist using emollients (non-cosmetic moisturizers)
- Wash your hands often.
- You may be at risk of infection so try to avoid crowds or people with colds, and report fever or any other signs of infection immediately to your health care provider.
- To help treat/prevent mouth sores, use a soft toothbrush, and rinse three times a day with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of baking soda and/or 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt mixed with 8 ounces of water.
- This medication causes little nausea. But if you should experience nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, and eat small frequent meals. Sucking on lozenges and chewing gum may also help.
- Keep your bowels moving. Your health care provider may prescribe a stool softener to help prevent constipation that may be caused by this medicine.
- An acne-like rash is a common side effect of this medication. If you are experiencing this side effect make sure your health care professional is aware, so they can assess the severity and offer suggestions for management.
- Avoid sun exposure. Wear SPF 30 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.
- In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely. You should discuss this with your doctor.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Maintain good nutrition.
- Remain active as you are able. Gentle exercise is encouraged such as a daily walk.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve discomfort from fever, headache and/or generalized aches and pains. However, be sure to talk with your doctor before taking it.
- If you experience symptoms or side effects, be sure to discuss them with your health care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.
When to contact your doctor or health care provider:
Seek emergency help immediately, day or night, if you should experience any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty breathing, closing up of the throat, swelling of facial features, hives (possible allergic reaction).
- Fever of 100.4˚ F (38˚ C) or higher, chills (possible sign of infection).
- Chest pain or any abnormal feeling of the heart or severe dizziness and fainting.
The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency. Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:
- Nausea (interferes with ability to eat and unrelieved with prescribed medication).
- Vomiting (vomiting more than 4-5 times in a 24 hour period).
- Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period).
- Extreme fatigue (unable to carry on self-care activities).
- Mouth sores (painful redness, swelling or ulcers).
- Rash that is worsening with blisters or open wounds.
- Confusion or mood changes
- Constipation unrelieved by laxative use.
- Swelling of the feet or ankles. Sudden weight gain.
- Unable to eat or drink for 24 hours or have signs of dehydration: tiredness, thirst, dry mouth, dark colored urine and a decrease in the amount of urine, or dizziness.
Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.