Etoposide is a drug used to treat certain types of cancer and leukaemia.
How is etoposide given?
Etoposide may be given by mouth in the form of a <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 242928 0 oLinkInternal capsule How to give your child tablets or capsules false /medical-conditions/medicines-information/how-to-give-your-child-tablets-or-capsules/ true false%>or a <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 240658 0 oLinkInternal liquid How to give your child liquid medicines using an oral syringe false /medical-conditions/medicines-information/how-to-give-your-child-liquid-medicines-using-an-oral-syringe/ true false%>.
It may also be given into a vein (intravenously or IV) through a <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 170788 0 oLinkInternal cannula Intravenous (IV) cannula false /teenagers/about-your-condition/tests-and-treatments/intravenous-iv-cannula/ true false%>, <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 235133 0 oLinkInternal central venous catheter Insertion of a central venous catheter false /medical-conditions/procedures-and-treatments/insertion-of-a-central-venous-catheter/ true false%> or <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 191615 0 oLinkInternal implantable port Implantable ports false /teenagers/about-your-condition/tests-and-treatments/implantable-ports/ true false%>.
What are the side effects of etoposide?
Nausea and vomiting
This is usually very mild and may be more common if the drug is given by mouth. Anti-sickness drugs can be given to reduce or prevent these symptoms. Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child’s sickness is not controlled or persists.
Your child may lose some or all of his or her hair, or it may become thinner. This is temporary and the hair will grow back once the treatment is finished.
Bone marrow suppression
There will be a temporary reduction in how well your child’s bone marrow works. This means he or she may become anaemic, bruise or bleed more easily than usual, and have a higher risk of infection. Your child’s blood counts will be checked regularly to see how the bone marrow is working. Please tell your doctor if your child seems unusually tired, has bruising or bleeding, or any signs of infection, especially a high temperature.
Drop in blood pressure
If the etoposide is infused too quickly (in less than half an hour), your child’s blood pressure may drop temporarily. However, it is usual to give this drug over a period of a few hours, so this is unlikely to occur.
If your child is given etoposide for a long time, there is a very small risk of him or her developing a <%$Linker: Internal <?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-16"?><dictionary /> 2 236875 0 oLinkInternal second cancer Long-term follow-up childhood cancer for parents and visitors false /medical-conditions/clinical-specialties/long-term-follow-up-childhood-cancer-information-for-parents-and-visitors/ true false%> after many years. If you feel you would like more information, please discuss it with your doctor.
Some children receiving Etoposide have an allergic reaction to the drug. This reaction may be mild to severe. Signs of a mild reaction include skin rashes and itching, high temperature, shivering, redness of the face, a feeling of dizziness or headache. If you see any of these signs, please report them to a doctor or nurse. Signs of a severe allergic reaction include any of the above, as well as difficulty in breathing or chest pain. If you are in hospital and your child shows signs of an allergic reaction, call a doctor or nurse immediately. If you are at home and your child shows signs of a severe allergic reaction, call an ambulance immediately.
Etoposide and interactions with other medicines
Some medicines can react with etoposide, altering how well it works. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child any other medicine, including medicines on prescription from your family doctor (GP), medicines bought from a pharmacy (chemist) or any herbal or complementary medicines.
Important information you should know about etoposide
- Keep all medicines and tablets in a safe place where children cannot reach them.
- Etoposide should be kept in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight or heat
- You should handle these medicines with care, avoiding touching them where possible. If you are pregnant or think you could be pregnant, please discuss handling instructions with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. Please see our Special handling requirements information sheet for further details.
- If your child vomits straight after taking the dose, inform your local doctor or nurse, as your child may need to take another one. Do not give them another dose without informing the doctor or nurse.
- If you forget to give your child a dose, do not give a double dose. Inform your doctor or nurse and keep to your child’s regular schedule.
- Used paper towels, vomit and dirty disposable nappies should be placed inside two rubbish bags and disposed of along with your normal rubbish.
- If the doctor decides to stop treatment or the medicine passes its expiry date, return any remaining etoposide to the pharmacist. Do not flush or throw it away.
How to give etoposide in a liquid form at home:
Your child’s etoposide will be supplied to you from pharmacy in screw-top glass vials contained in a plastic tub. This tub should be stored upright to prevent spillage.
You will need a pair of rubber gloves for preparing the etoposide.
Put on your gloves and pour out the contents of the etoposide vial into a glass (NOT a plastic beaker).
Pour a soft drink into the empty glass vial and rinse around. Pour out the washings into the glass. Add more drink to make a suitable volume (not too much) for your child.
Put the empty vial and lid into the sharps bin. The ward will supply you with a sharps bin.
Give the dose to your child.
Wash the glass out separately in warm soapy water and keep for the next dose of etoposide. Do not use the glass or gloves for other purposes.
At the end of each course or when the sharps bin is three-quarters full, take it to your local hospital or Great Ormond Street Hospital for disposal. Do not dispose in the household rubbish.
If you accidentally spill the mixture, wash the area thoroughly with plenty of water.
- If the mixture accidentally gets into your eyes, wash with plenty of running water for five to ten minutes.
Last reviewed by Great Ormond Street Hospital: May 2010
Ref: 2010F0491 © GOSH Trust May 2010
Compiled by the Pharmacy department in collaboration with the Child and Family Information Group
Please read this information in conjunction with any patient information leaflet provided by the manufacturer. However, please note that this information explains about the use of medicines in children and young people so may differ from the manufacturer’s information.
Each person reacts differently to medicines so your child will not necessarily suffer every side effect mentioned. This information does not constitute health or medical advice and will not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. If you have any questions, please ask your doctor. No liability can be taken as a result of using this information.