How does this medication work? What will it do for me?
Vincristine belongs to the group of cancer-fighting medications known as antineoplastics. It causes the death of cancer cells by interfering with the genetic material DNA, which is necessary for their growth and reproduction.
Vincristine is used alone or in combination with other antineoplastic medications to treat many different types of cancer, including leukemia (cancer of white blood cells), lymphoma (cancer of the lymph cells), breast cancer, lung cancer, malignant melanoma, cancer of the cervix, colorectal cancer, and Wilms' tumor.
Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.
Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.
What form(s) does this medication come in?
Each mL contains vincristine sulfate 1 mg. Nonmedicinal ingredients: mannitol 100 mg and Water for Injection q.s. Sodium hydroxide and/or sulphuric acid are used for pH adjustment.
How should I use this medication?
The recommended dose and dosing schedule of vincristine varies according to the specific type of cancer being treated, the response to therapy, and the other drugs or treatments being used. The dose administered is also based on body size.
Vincristine is injected into a vein through a specially prepared site on your skin that has been prepared for this purpose. It is usually scheduled to be given on a weekly basis. Very careful handling of this medication is required. It is always given under the supervision of a doctor in a hospital or similar setting with access to sterile equipment for preparation.
As well as interfering with the genetic material DNA of cancer cells, vincristine can interfere with some of your normal cells. This can cause a number of side effects such as hair loss. Vincristine sometimes causes mild nausea and vomiting, but it is important to keep using this medication even if you feel ill.
Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can advise you on how to reduce the effects of nausea and vomiting. Your doctor may want you to drink extra fluids while using this medication to prevent kidney problems. Keep track of any side effects and report them to your doctor as suggested in the section "What side effects are possible with this medication?"
Many things can affect the dose of medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.
It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss an appointment to receive vincristine, contact your doctor as soon as possible to reschedule your appointment.
Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.
Who should NOT take this medication?
Do not use this medication if you:
- are allergic to vincristine or any ingredients of this medication
- have a particular form (called the "demyelinating form") of a condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome
What side effects are possible with this medication?
Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent.
The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.
The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.
Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.
- nausea and vomiting
- skin rash
- temporary loss of hair
Although most of the side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not seek medical attention.
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:
Get medical help immediately if any of the following occur:
- black, tarry stools or blood in urine or stools
- cough or hoarseness
- fever or chills
- pain or redness at injection site
- pinpoint red spots on skin
- unusual bleeding or bruising
Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.
Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?
Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.
Blood clotting: Medications that fight cancer may reduce the number of platelet cells in the blood. Platelets help the blood to clot, and a shortage could make you bleed more easily. Tell your doctor of any signs that your blood is not clotting as quickly. Such symptoms may include black and tarry stools, blood in the urine, easy bruising, or cuts that won't stop bleeding.
Gout and kidney stones: Vincristine may increase the levels of uric acid in the body, which can increase the risk for gout or kidney stones for people already at risk of these conditions. Talk to your doctor to find out whether you are at risk.
Infection: As well as killing cancer cells, medications that fight cancer may reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). Avoid contact with people with contagious infections and tell your doctor if you begin to notice signs of an infection, such as fever or chills.
Pregnancy: There is a possibility of birth defect if either partner is using vincristine at the time of conception, or if it is taken during pregnancy. It may also harm the baby in other ways if used during pregnancy. Use effective birth control while beaing treated with this medication, and tell the doctor immediately if you become pregnant.
Breast-feeding: It is not known whether vincristine passes into breast milk. Because of the risk of harm to the infant, women should not breast-feed while receiving vincristine.
What other drugs could interact with this medication?
There may be an interaction between vincristine and any of the following:
- live vaccines
- other cancer drugs (e.g., asparaginase, cisplatin, mitomycin)
- tacrolimus ointment
If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:
- stop taking one of the medications,
- change one of the medications to another,
- change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
- leave everything as is.
An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.
Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.