What is Avastin?
Avastin is the first of a new class of drugs used to treat cancer of the colon or rectum. Avastin is a new type of cancer treatment called anti-angiogenic therapy. Avastin is not chemotherapy. Avastin is a monoclonal antibody. Monoclonal antibodies are generally a more targeted therapy than chemotherapy.
Bevacizumab is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.
Bevacizumab is used to treat a certain type of brain tumor, and certain types of cancers of the kidney, lung, colon, rectum, cervix, ovary, or fallopian tube. Bevacizumab is also used to treat cancer of the membrane lining the internal organs in your abdomen. It is usually given as part of a combination of cancer medicines.
Bevacizumab may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Bevacizumab can make it easier for you to bleed. Seek emergency medical attention if you have any bleeding that will not stop. You may also have bleeding on the inside of your body.
Call your doctor if you have: signs of bleeding in your digestive tract–feeling very weak or dizzy, severe stomach pain, black or bloody stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; or signs of bleeding in the brain–sudden numbness or weakness, slurred speech, severe headache, problems with vision or balance.
Do not use this medicine within 28 days before or after a planned surgery.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use bevacizumab if you are allergic to it, or:
- if you have slow healing of a skin wound or surgical incision;
- if you have had surgery within the past 4 weeks (28 days);
- if you have recently been coughing up blood; or
- if you plan to have surgery within the next 4 weeks (28 days).
Tell your doctor if you have:
- heart disease, high blood pressure;
- a heart attack, stroke, or blood clots;
- a bleeding or blood-clotting disorder; or
- stomach or intestinal bleeding, or perforation (a hole or tear) in your esophagus, stomach, or intestines.
In animal studies, bevacizumab caused birth defects. However, it is not known whether these effects would occur in humans. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy while you are using this medicine and for at least 6 months after your last dose.
Bevacizumab may cause a woman’s ovaries to stop working correctly. Symptoms of ovarian failure include 3 or more missed menstrual periods in a row. This may affect your fertility (ability to have children). Talk to your doctor about your specific risks.
You should not breast-feed while using bevacizumab.
How is bevacizumab given?
Bevacizumab is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.
Tell your caregivers if you feel dizzy, nauseated, light-headed, sweaty, or have a headache, shortness of breath, or chest pain during the injection.
Bevacizumab is usually given once every 2 or 3 weeks.
You will need frequent medical tests.
Bevacizumab can cause problems with wound healing, which could result in bleeding or infection. If you need to have any type of surgery, you will need to stop receiving bevacizumab at least 28 days ahead of time. Do not start using bevacizumab for at least 28 days after surgery, or until your surgical incision heals.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your bevacizumab injection.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
What should I avoid while receiving bevacizumab?
Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding or injury. Use extra care to prevent bleeding while shaving or brushing your teeth.
Bevacizumab side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Bevacizumab can make it easier for you to bleed. Call your doctor or seek emergency medical attention if you have:
- easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, rectum), or any bleeding that will not stop;
- signs of bleeding in your digestive tract–severe stomach pain, bloody or tarry stools, coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds; or
- signs of bleeding in the brain–sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, problems with vision or balance.
Bevacizumab can cause a rare but serious neurologic disorder affecting the brain. Symptoms may occur within hours of your first dose, or they may not appear for up to a year after your treatment started. Call your doctor at once if you have extreme weakness or tiredness, headache, confusion, vision problems, fainting, or seizure (blackout or convulsions).
Some people receiving bevacizumab have developed a fistula (an abnormal passageway) within the throat, lungs, gallbladder, kidney, bladder, or vagina. Call your doctor if you have: chest pain and trouble breathing, stomach pain or swelling, urine leakage, or if you feel like you are choking and gagging when you eat or drink.
Also call your doctor if you have:
- pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in one or both legs;
- chest tightness or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the jaw or shoulder, nausea, sweating, general ill feeling;
- missed menstrual periods;
- low white blood cell counts–fever, swollen gums, painful mouth sores, skin sores, cold or flu symptoms, cough, trouble breathing;
- signs of any skin infection–sudden redness, warmth, swelling, or oozing, or any skin wound or surgical incision that will not heal; or
- increased blood pressure–severe headache, blurred vision, pounding in your neck or ears, anxiety, nosebleed.
Side effects may be more likely in older adults.
Common side effects may include:
- nosebleed, rectal bleeding;
- increased blood pressure;
- headache, back pain;
- dry or watery eyes;
- dry or flaky skin;
- runny nose, sneezing; or
- changes in your sense of taste.
This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
What other drugs will affect bevacizumab?
Other drugs may affect bevacizumab, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.
Avastin has been approved by the FDA and by Health Canada in combination with a specific type of chemotherapy (intravenous 5-fluorouracil [5-FU]-based chemotherapy) for treatment of people diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer for the first time.
The information provided here is for general educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or pharmaceutical advice which should be sought from qualified medical and pharmaceutical advisers.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children and away from pets, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.