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What is Bleomycin?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated May 17, 2024
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Bleomycin is a type of drug known as a cytotoxic or antineoplastic medication. In the United States, it is available by prescription only. This is usually administered via injection by either a doctor or under a doctor's supervision. It is most commonly used to treat certain forms of cancer.

Patients who suffer from lymphoma or uterine, cervical, testicular, and penile cancers may benefit from this drug. It can also be used to treat bone, skin, and thyroid cancers. Bleomycin may also be prescribed for other purposes, such as in the treatment of warts that do not respond to other methods. A doctor might also prescribe it to treat a condition called pleural effusion, which occurs when fluid accumulates between the chest wall and the lining of the lungs.

When Bleomycin is used to treat pleural effusion, it is injected directly into that area of the body via a tube inserted into the chest. Otherwise, the drug is usually injected subcutaneously, or under the patient's skin. It may also be administered through an intramuscular injection, which is directly into a patient's muscle. It can also be given intravenously. Bleomycin is not taken orally, because there is no pill form of this medication.

Patients should be aware of some common side effects of this medication. These can include hair loss, as well as thickening or banding of the nails. The drug may also result in chills and fevers, as well as skin ulcerations, redness, or peeling. Higher dosages of this medication are more likely to result in side effects, both minor and severe.

The exception to the possible side effects a patient may experience is when a patient uses Bleomycin to treat warts. In this case, Bleomycin is injected directly into the wart by the doctor. While this may cause temporary pain, skin rash, and nail loss, this method does not typically result in the loss of hair, fevers, chills, or other severe side effects.

Some of the possible severe side effects a patient may experience when using Bleomycin for reasons other than wart treatment can include lung problems. These can take the form of wheezing, shortness of breath, or general discomfort while breathing. Patients who have pre-existing lung problems, as well as those who are of advanced age, are more likely to experience these side effects.

Other potentially serious side effects of Bleomycin use can include nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. Patients may also notice mouth sores. Rarely, this drug may lead to blood vessel problems that can result in a stroke or heart attack. Before taking it, a patient should inform his doctor about all other medications and herbal supplements he is taking, as well as any other medical conditions or symptoms he has.

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