Vinblastine is a chemotherapy medicine that is used to treat certain types of cancer. It is also used to treat other conditions, such as Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. This page from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains what vinblastine is, how it is given and some of the possible side effects. Each person reacts differently to medicines, so your child will not necessarily suffer from every side effect mentioned. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.Vinblastine is given by slow injection into a vein (intravenously or IV) through a cannula, central venous catheter or implantable port.
What are the side effects?
Bone marrow suppression
There will be a temporary reduction in how well your child’s bone marrow works. This means that they may become anaemic (reduced red blood cells), bruise or bleed more easily than usual and have a higher risk of infection.
Your child’s blood count will be examined regularly to check how well the bone marrow is working. Please tell your doctor if your child seems to be unusually tired, has bruising or bleeding or any signs of infection, especially a high temperature.
Your child may become constipated and have tummy pain. This can generally be helped by drinking lots of fluids and eating a high-fibre diet. Sometimes the doctor may prescribe laxative medicines to stimulate your child’s bowel function.
Nausea and vomiting
Anti-sickness drugs can be given to reduce or prevent these symptoms. Please tell your doctor or nurse if your child’s sickness is very bad or lasts for more than a few days.
Loss of appetite
Your child may ‘go off’ food and their appetite may be reduced during treatment.
The dietitian at the hospital will be able to suggest ways of making food more attractive to your child.
Sometimes vinblastine may cause jaw pain or difficulty in swallowing. This is because of the effect of vinblastine on the cranial nerve, which runs down the side of the face. These effects are temporary and usually wear off gradually once treatment is finished.
Numbness, tingling or aches and pains
This can happen because of the effect of vinblastine on your child’s nervous system. Your child may complain of aches and pains in their legs. Please tell your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms. These side effects are temporary and usually wear off a few months after treatment has finished.
Your child may lose all of their hair or it may become thinner. This is temporary and their hair will grow back once the treatment has finished.
Please tell the doctor or nurse if your child has diarrhoea that is very bad or lasts for more than a few days. It is important that your child drinks plenty of fluids. Some children may need to go to hospital to have fluids through a drip.
Interactions with other medicines
Some medicines can react with vinblastine, 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.
If vinblastine leaks into the tissues underneath your child’s skin, they can damage the tissue in this area. This is called extravasation.
- If given through a cannula and your child complains of stinging and burning around the cannula, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately.
- If given through a central venous catheter or implantable port and your child complains of pain around their chest or neck, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately.