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All about: mechlorethamine

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Generic Name: mechlorethamine (mech klor EH tha meen)
Brand Names: Mustargen

What is mechlorethamine?

Mechlorethamine is a cancer (antineoplastic) medication. Mechlorethamine interferes with the growth of cancer cells and slows their growth and spread in the body.

Mechlorethamine is used to treat several types of cancer, such as Hodgkin's Disease, lymphosarcoma, chronic myelocytic or chronic lymphocytic leukemia, lung cancer and mycosis fungoides. Mechlorethamine is also used to treat certain other blood disorders (polycythemia vera) and is sometimes injected into body spaces, such as the chest, abdomen or the sack containing the heart, to stop the accumulation of fluids caused by cancer.

Mechlorethamine may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about mechlorethamine?

Mechlorethamine should only be administered under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider experienced in the use of cancer chemotherapeutic agents.

Serious side effects have been reported with the use of mechlorethamine including: allergic reactions (difficulty breathing; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, tongue, or face; or hives); decreased bone marrow function and blood problems (extreme fatigue; easy bruising or bleeding; black, bloody or tarry stools; fever or chills; or signs of infection such as fever; chills, or sore throat); severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite; and others. Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects from treatment with mechlorethamine.

Mechlorethamine is highly toxic and both the powder and solution must be handled with care. Inhalation of dust or vapors and contact with skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) must be avoided.

Who should not take mechlorethamine?

Before taking mechlorethamine, tell your doctor if you

  • have had recent vaccinations;

  • have any type of infection;

  • have bone marrow problems;

  • have had radiation or x-ray therapy; or

  • have been treated with other cancer (chemotherapy) medicines.

You may not be able to take mechlorethamine, or you may require a dosage adjustment or special monitoring during treatment if you have any of the conditions listed above.

Mechlorethamine is in the FDA pregnancy category D. This means that mechlorethamine is known to cause birth defects in an unborn baby. Do not take mechlorethamine without first talking to your doctor if you are pregnant or could become pregnant during treatment. Contraceptive measures are recommended during treatment with mechlorethamine. It is not known whether mechlorethamine passes into breast milk. Do not take mechlorethamine without first talking to your doctor if you are breast feeding a baby.

How should I take mechlorethamine?

Mechlorethamine should only be administered under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider experienced in the use of cancer chemotherapeutic agents.

Your doctor will determine the correct amount and frequency of treatment with mechlorethamine depending upon the type of cancer being treated and other factors. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding the treatment schedule.

Your doctor will probably want you to have regularly scheduled blood tests and other medical evaluations during treatment with mechlorethamine to monitor progress and side effects.

Mechlorethamine is highly toxic and both the powder and solution must be handled with care. Inhalation of dust or vapors and contact with skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) must be avoided. Should accidental contact occur, rinse the area with water and seek emergency medical attention.

Your healthcare provider will store mechlorethamine as directed by the manufacturer.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Contact your doctor if you miss a dose of mechlorethamine injection.

What happens if I overdose?

If for any reason an overdose of mechlorethamine is suspected, seek emergency medical attention or contact your healthcare provider immediately.

Symptoms of a mechlorethamine overdose tend to be similar to side effects caused by the medication, although often more severe.

What should I avoid while taking mechlorethamine?

Mechlorethamine can lower the activity of your immune system making you susceptible to infections. Avoid contact with people who have colds, the flu, or other contagious illnesses and do not receive vaccines that contain live strains of a virus (e.g., live oral polio vaccine) during treatment with mechlorethamine. In addition, avoid contact with individuals who have recently been vaccinated with a live vaccine. There is a chance that the virus can be passed on to you.

Mechlorethamine is highly toxic and both the powder and solution must be handled with care. Inhalation of dust or vapors and contact with skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth) must be avoided.

Mechlorethamine side effects

If you experience any of the following serious side effects, seek emergency medical attention or contact your doctor immediately:
  • an allergic reaction (shortness of breath; closing of your throat; difficulty breathing; swelling of your lips, face, or tongue; or hives);

  • blood in the urine;

  • black or tarry stools;

  • signs of infection such as fever; chills, or sore throat;

  • joint pain and stiffness similar to gout (high levels of uric acid in the blood);

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);or

  • unusual bleeding or bruising.

Other less serious side effects may be more likely to occur. Talk to your doctor if you experience:

  • nausea, vomiting, or decreased appetite;

  • mouth sores;

  • a sensation of spinning or dizziness (vertigo);

  • diarrhea;

  • temporary hair loss;

  • rash;

  • a ringing in the ears or decreased ability to hear; or

  • weakness.

In some cases, second malignancies have been reported to occur during and following treatment with mechlorethamine. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this medication.

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

What other drugs will affect mechlorethamine?

Do not receive "live" vaccines during treatment with mechlorethamine. Administration of a live vaccine may be dangerous during treatment with mechlorethamine.

Other drugs may interact with mechlorethamine. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist before taking any other prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including herbal products, during treatment with mechlorethamine.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist has additional information about mechlorethamine written for health professionals that you may read.

What does my medication look like?

Mechlorethamine is available with a prescription under the brand name Mustargen. Other brand or generic formulations may also be available. Ask your doctor or pharmacist any questions you have about this medication, especially if it is new to you.

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. 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.
Copyright 1996-2006 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 1.03. Revision Date: 2/13/04 4:02:56 PM.

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