Generic Name Brand Name
bleomycin Blenoxane

Bleomycin is an intravenous (IV) chemotherapy medication used to treat several types of cancers including testicular cancer and lymphoma, as well as cancers of the head and neck.

How It Works

Bleomycin interferes with a cell's ability to divide and reproduce, resulting in the death of the cell. Each dose is usually given over a period of 10 minutes or continuously for 24 hours.

Why It Is Used

Bleomycin is used to slow or stop the spread of cancer cells in the body.

How Well It Works

Bleomycin is an effective antitumor medication. However, the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medication slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

As with many chemotherapy medications, bleomycin is associated with some side effects, including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Hair loss. This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.
  • Sores in the mouth or on the lips.

Other, less common side effects include:

  • Scarring of lung tissue.
  • Pain at tumor sites.
  • Pain where medication is injected into the bloodstream.
  • Lung irritation.
  • Allergic (anaphylactic) reaction, which may cause decreased blood pressure, confusion, rapid heart rate, wheezing, and facial swelling.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Bleomycin should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

For both men and women, bleomycin can affect your ability to have children. You may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after taking this medication. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Bleomycin can cause birth defects. Do not use this medication if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.

Because bleomycin can damage the lungs, you may have tests to measure the function of your lungs before your doctor prescribes bleomycin. These tests may be repeated over the course of your treatment. Tell your doctor if you have any shortness of breath or other problems breathing after you begin taking bleomycin.

Talk to your doctor before taking bleomycin if you:

  • Have any of the following medical problems:
    • Chickenpox or have recently been exposed to chickenpox
    • Gout
    • Heart disease
    • Congestive heart failure
    • Shingles
    • Kidney stones
    • Liver disease
    • Other forms of cancer
  • Are a woman using birth control hormones (pill, patch, ring, or implant).

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Last Updated: January 26, 2009

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