Medications for Colorectal Cancer

Medications for Colorectal Cancer

Here are the basics about each of the medicines below. Only common problems with them are listed.

Some medicines are part of treatment. Other medicines may help prevent or reduce side effects of treatments.

Prescription Medications

Targeted Therapies

  • Bevacizumab
  • Cetuximab
  • Panitumumab
  • Nivolumab
  • Pembrolizumab

Antiemetics

  • Prochlorperazine
  • Ondansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • Dronabinol

Corticosteroids

  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone

Opioids

  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxycodone

Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs

  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin

Over-the-Counter Medications

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

Prescription Medications

Targeted Therapies

Common names are:

  • Bevacizumab
  • Cetuximab
  • Panitumumab
  • Nivolumab
  • Pembrolizumab

Targeted therapy seek outs cancer cells and destroys them. They can be used alone or with other chemotherapy.

Some problems may be:

For bevacizumab:

  • Tiredness
  • Bleeding
  • Headache
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of hunger
  • Diarrhea

For cetuximab:

  • Skin rash
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

For panitumumab:

  • Skin rash
  • Sensitivity to sunlight
  • Tiredness
  • Diarrhea

For nivolumab:

  • Rash, or itching
  • Belly pain
  • Tiredness
  • Joint paint
  • Headache
  • Cough

For pembrolizumab:

  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • Cough
  • Tiredness

Antiemetics

Common names are:

  • Prochlorperazine
  • Ondansetron
  • Granisetron
  • Metoclopramide
  • Dronabinol

Antiemetics treat nausea and vomiting from cancer treatment. They may be taken by mouth, injection, or insertion into the rectum. It depends on the medicine.

Some problems may be:

For prochlorperazine:

  • Blurred vision
  • Sleepiness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Restlessness or need to keep moving
  • Shuffling walk
  • Stiffness of arms or legs
  • Trembling and shaking of hands and fingers

For ondansetron:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

For granisetron:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

For metoclopramide:

  • Diarrhea
  • Sleepiness
  • Restlessness
  • Uncontrolled movements of the jaw, lip, or tongue

For dronabinol:

  • Unusual happiness or excitement
  • Fast heart beats
  • Red face
  • Confusion
  • Nervousness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there
  • Feeling threatened

Corticosteroids

Common names are:

  • Dexamethasone
  • Prednisone

Corticosteroids help reduce inflammation.

Some problems may be:

  • Feeling very hungry
  • Bloating, gas, or belly fullness
  • Nervousness or restlessness

Opioids

Common names are:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Oxycodone

Opioids ease pain. However, they can lead to addiction. They need to be used carefully.

Some problems may be:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Constipation

Blood Stem Cell Support Drugs

Common names are:

  • Filgrastim
  • Epoetin

Blood cells can be destroyed during cancer treatment. These medicines help the body make new white or red blood cells.

Both medicines are given by injection.

Some problems may be:

For filgrastim:

  • Bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin rash or itching

For epoetin:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Injection site pain
  • Cough
  • Headache

Over-the-Counter Medications

Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Common names are:

  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen

NSAIDs are used to ease pain and inflammation.

Some problems may be:

  • Stomach upset
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache

References:

Colon cancer treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq#section/_135. Accessed March 25, 2021.
Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 25, 2021.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/colorectal-cancer. Accessed March 25, 2021.
Colorectal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 25, 2021.
Rectal cancer treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/rectal-treatment-pdq#section/_135. Accessed March 25, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 3/25/2021

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