What Are the Uses of Etoposide and Cisplatin?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Etoposide and cisplatin are chemotherapy drugs that are prescribed to treat cancer. Cisplatin is typically used for patients with advanced bladder carcinoma and tumors of the ovaries or testicles that have begun to spread. Etoposide is commonly used to treat lung cancer, testicular cancer, and chronic myelogenous leukemia. It is a type of drug called a podophyllotoxin derivative, while cisplatin is a platinum-containing compound. Both of these drugs work to halt the spread of cancer cells.


Cisplatin is only available as an injection to be administered by a healthcare professional. Patients are urged to drink plenty of fluids before and after each injection. Those taking etoposide may use the tablet form or their doctors might administer the dose intravenously. Blood tests may be used during treatment with etoposide and cisplatin to ensure the patient's general health.

Etoposide and cisplatin may cause some side effects, the most common of which include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea and weakness. Etoposide in particular can also cause stomach pain, constipation, and unusual changes in taste. Patients should contact their doctors if these side effects become severe.

More serious side effects from etoposide and cisplatin require immediate medical attention, such as blistering in the mouth, excessive fatigue, and unusual bruising or bleeding. Loss of balance, uncontrollable muscle movements, and a rapid or irregular heartbeat have been reported. Dizziness, fainting, and vision changes are possible. Other serious side effects may include shortness of breath, persistent diarrhea, and signs of a possible infection, such as a fever and chills.

Certain precautions should be followed while patients are using etoposide and cisplatin to treat cancer. In addition to blood tests, liver function tests may be performed to detect possible side effects. Patients should avoid receiving a vaccination unless it is approved by the prescribing physician. They will be more susceptible to infections, so contact with people who are sick should be limited as much as possible. Both etoposide and cisplatin can lower the platelet count in the blood, which may increase the risk of bleeding.

Before using these chemotherapy drugs, patients must disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women should avoid becoming pregnant or breastfeeding while undergoing chemotherapy. The drugs may be contraindicated for those with certain medical conditions, such as liver problems, gout, and kidney or heart disease. They may interact with other medicines, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, and methotrexate.

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