Vincristine is a chemotherapy medicine that is used to treat certain types of cancer. It is also used to treat other conditions. This page from Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) explains what vincristine 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.Vincristine 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?
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.
Numbness, tingling or aches and pains
This can happen because of the effect of vincristine 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.
Sometimes vincristine may cause jaw pain or difficulty in swallowing. This is because of the effect of vincristine 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.
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.
Discomfort on urination or urine retention
Your child may experience pain or discomfort on urination or difficulty in passing urine. Please tell the doctor or nurse if this occurs.
Interactions with other medicines
Some medicines can react with vincristine, 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 vincristine 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.