How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Carboplatin belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications known as antineoplastics, and specifically to the group of antineoplastics known as platinum-containing compounds. Carboplatin prevents the growth of cancer cells by interfering with the genetic material DNA, which is necessary for reproduction of cells. Carboplatin is usually used to treat a particular type of cancer of the ovaries.

This medication may be available under multiple brand names and/or in several different forms. Any specific brand name of this medication may not be available in all of the forms or approved for all of the conditions discussed here. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here.

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are using this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop using this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

Paraplatin-Aq® is no longer being manufactured for sale in Canada. For brands that may still be available, search under carboplatin. This article is being kept available for reference purposes only. If you are using this medication, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for information about your treatment options.

How should I use this medication?

The recommended dose varies according to body size or kidney function.

Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

Carboplatin is given as an intravenous (into the vein) injection. This medication is most often given as a single injection (given over 15 to 60 minutes) and may be repeated after at least 4 weeks depending on response. Your doctor may decide on a dosage schedule different from that described here.

Carboplatin will be injected by the doctor or by someone under direct supervision of the doctor. The medication is usually injected through a specially prepared site on the skin. Very careful handling of this medication is required. It is always administered in a hospital or similar setting with access to sterile equipment for preparation.

As well as interfering with the genetic material DNA of cancer cells, carboplatin can interfere with some of your normal cells. This can cause a number of side effects such as nausea. Keep track of any side effects and report them to your doctor.

It is important this medication be given exactly as recommended by your doctor. If you miss an appointment to receive carboplatin, contact your doctor as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment.

Store this medication at room temperature, protect it from light and moisture, and keep it out of the reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Do not take carboplatin if you:

  • are sensitive or allergic to carboplatin or any ingredients of the medication
  • are sensitive or allergic to platinum-containing compounds
  • have severely reduced bone marrow function
  • have severely reduced kidney function

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.

The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss
  • nausea
  • sore lips or mouth sores
  • taste disturbances
  • tiredness and weakness
  • vomiting

Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • abdominal pain
  • changes in hearing or vision
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fever or chills
  • lower back or side pain with fever or chills
  • memory or personality changes
  • new cancer affecting the blood (e.g., fatigue, shortness of breath, paleness, bruising, bleeding, bone pain, frequent infections, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss)
  • numbness or tingling in fingers and toes
  • pain where injection took place
  • signs of anemia (low red blood cells; e.g., dizziness, pale skin, unusual tiredness or weakness, shortness of breath)
  • signs of bleeding (e.g., bloody, black, or tarry stools, vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds, blood in the urine, unusual bruising or bleeding, cuts that won't stop bleeding, nosebleeds)
  • signs of a blood clot in the arm or leg (tenderness, pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in the arm or leg) or lungs (difficulty breathing, sharp chest pain that is worst when breathing in, coughing, coughing up blood, sweating, or passing out)
  • signs of heart problems (e.g., fast, irregular heartbeat or pulse, chest pain, sudden weight gain, difficulty breathing, leg swelling)
  • signs of kidney problems (e.g., increased urination at night, decreased urine production, blood in the urine, change of urine colour)
  • signs of liver problems (e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, pale stools)
  • signs of a reaction at the injection site (e.g., red streaks along vein where medication was injected, pain at injection site, redness, or warmth at site of injection)
  • skin rash or itching

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • progressive loss of consciousness
  • signs of a serious allergic reaction (e.g., abdominal cramps, difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, swelling of the face and throat, or symptoms similar to heart attack)
  • signs of infection (e.g., fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness, cough or hoarseness)
  • signs of posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (e.g., headache, seizures, weakness, confusion, high blood pressure, vision changes, difficulty thinking clearly)
  • signs of a severe skin reaction such as blistering, peeling, a rash covering a large area of the body, a rash that spreads quickly, or a rash combined with fever or discomfort
  • signs of stroke (e.g., sudden or severe headache; sudden loss of coordination; vision changes; sudden slurring of speech; or unexplained weakness, numbness, or pain in arm or leg)
  • symptoms of tumour lysis syndrome (e.g., producing less urine, cloudy urine, kidney problems, muscle spasms, nausea, shortness of breath)
  • symptoms of vaso-occlusive disease (e.g., fluid buildup in the abdomen, swelling, yellowing of the skin or eyes, rapid weight gain)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Birth control: Effective birth control should be used while receiving carboplatin, as this medication may harm the baby if used during pregnancy. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

People that could become pregnant who are receiving carboplatin should use an effective method of birth control such as condoms during treatment and for at least 7 months after stopping the medication.

People that could impregnate another who are receiving this medication should use condoms during treatment and for at least 4 months after the last dose.

Blood clotting: This medication can reduce the number of platelet cells in the blood. Platelets help the blood to clot, and a shortage could make you bleed more easily. Tell your doctor of any signs that your blood is not clotting as quickly. Such symptoms may include black and tarry stools, blood in the urine, easy bruising, or cuts that won't stop bleeding.

Hearing loss: When taken over long periods of time, carboplatin can cause hearing loss, particularly in younger children. Your doctor will conduct hearing tests before and during treatment with this medication. If you develop signs of hearing loss, contact your doctor.

Infection: As well as killing cancer cells, this medication can reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). If possible, avoid contact with people with contagious infections. Tell your doctor immediately if you notice signs of an infection, such as fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness. Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of specific types of blood cells in your blood.

Kidney function: Decreased kidney function or kidney disease can cause this medication to build up in the body, causing side effects. If you have reduced kidney function or kidney disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

This medication should not be given to anyone with severely reduced kidney function unless the benefits outweigh the risks.

Other cancers: Taking carboplatin may increase your risk of developing certain types of leukemia (blood cancer), possibly years after completing treatment. This is not unusual with medications that treat cancer. Your doctor will monitor for this.

Posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome: Very rarely, this medication can cause a reversible brain problem called PRES (posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome). If you develop a seizure, headache, weakness, confusion, loss of vision, or other vision changes while using this medication, get immediate medical attention.

Red blood cells: Carboplatin may cause low levels of red blood cells. If you experience symptoms of reduced red blood cell count (anemia) such as shortness of breath, feeling unusually tired, or pale skin, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Tumour lysis syndrome: Carboplatin, like many other cancer medications, causes many cancer cells to be suddenly killed when treatment is first started. This can overwhelm the body with waste products from the cells. As a result, the body may not be able to keep up with getting rid of all the waste. When this happens, you may experience nausea, shortness of breath, notice cloudy urine or joint pain. This is called tumour lysis syndrome. Your doctor may prescribe some medications to help your body get rid of the waste products. Make sure you understand how to use these medications and report any of these signs or symptoms to your doctor immediately.

Vaccines: Live vaccines such as yellow fever, BCG, cholera, typhoid, varicella, meningococcal, and diphtheria should not be given while you are receiving carboplatin. They work by administering a small amount of live bacterium into the body to cause the body to develop defenses against them. When they are given at the same time as a medication that reduces the strength of your immune system, it may cause a severe infection.

Other vaccines given when you are receiving this medication may not work well enough to protect you from infections. Talk to your doctor about which vaccinations you need before starting treatment.

The effectiveness of giving other vaccines while using this medication has not been studied.

Veno-occlusive disease (VOD): VOD is a potential complication of carboplatin treatment. It occurs when the small blood vessels that carry blood into and out of the liver become blocked. This in turn prevents the liver from removing toxins from the blood and causes liver damage. If you experience symptoms of VOD, such as rapid weight gain, fluid buildup in the body, or tenderness, swelling or pain in the abdomen, contact your doctor as soon as possible. VOD can cause liver failure and death if it is not treated promptly.

Pregnancy: There is a possibility of birth defect if either the man or woman is using carboplatin at the time of conception, or if it is taken during pregnancy. Effective birth control should be practiced while using this medication. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.

Breast-feeding: This medication passes into breast milk. If you are breast-feeding and receiving carboplatin, it may affect your baby. Talk to your doctor about whether you should continue breast-feeding.

Children: The prescribing of carboplatin for treatment of cancers in children should be done only by a doctor who has experience with the use of this medication for children.

Seniors: Seniors are at an increased risk of side effects with carboplatin as the kidneys may not be able to remove the medication from the body as effectively. Lower doses may be needed.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

For a full list of interactions, use the Drug Interaction Checker available on the website.

If you are taking other medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.

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