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.
Contact Lenses: This medication can cause severe eye irritation. Wearing contact lenses makes this irritation more likely to occur. It is recommended that you wear glasses while you are receiving treatment with cetuximab, to reduce the risk of permanently damaging your vision.
Fluid and electrolyte balance: Cetuximab may cause the levels of electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium, chloride, and calcium in the blood to change while taking this medication. If you experience symptoms of fluid and electrolyte imbalance such as muscle pains or cramps; dry mouth; numb hands, feet, or lips; or racing heartbeat, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the levels of these electrolytes in your blood while you are taking this medication.
Heart problems: Serious and potentially life-threatening heart problems have occurred in people who were using cetuximab. If you have a heart problem (e.g., arrhythmia, angina, heart failure), you will be monitored closely by your doctor during the infusion and immediately after the infusion is finished.
Kidney function: This medication may cause decreased kidney function and rarely, kidney failure. If you have reduced kidney function or kidney disease, discuss with your doctor how this medication may affect your medical condition, how your medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.
If you experience a decrease in urine produced or the number of times you need to urinate daily, let your doctors know as soon as possible.
Infection: As well as killing cancer cells, cetuximab can reduce the number of cells that fight infection in the body (white blood cells). This increases the risk of developing an infection or reactivating an inactive infection (e.g., herpes, shingles). If possible, avoid contact with people with contagious infections. Tell your doctor immediately if you notice signs of an infection, such as fever or chills, severe diarrhea, shortness of breath, prolonged dizziness, headache, stiff neck, weight loss, or listlessness. Your doctor will do blood tests regularly to monitor the number of white blood cells in your blood.
Infusion-related reactions: There have been reports of severe infusion-related reactions, sometimes resulting in death, in people with who were given cetuximab. Your health care provider will closely monitor you during and after the infusion. These reactions usually occur within 30 minutes to 2 hours of starting the infusion.
If you experience symptoms of an infusion reaction, such as fever, chills, difficulty breathing, tightness of chest or throat, stomach upset, and rash, tell your health care provider immediately.
It is important to take the medication(s) recommended by your doctor before your infusion of cetuximab. If you experience a severe infusion reaction, your doctor will give you additional medications to treat the reaction. Ask your doctor for more information.
Skin problems: Cetuximab can cause skin disorders, such as an acne-like rash, dry and cracked skin and inflammation. These may lead to infection of the skin. If you notice cuts or sores that become inflamed and do not heal, or wounds that develop discharge, let your doctor know immediately.
This medication can also cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight resulting in sunburn, skin blisters, skin rash, redness, itching, or discolouration. If you experience any of these skin reactions, contact your doctor. Try to limit the length of time you are out in the sunlight or using tanning beds while you are receiving cetuximab treatment and for 2 months after your last dose of cetuximab.
Pregnancy: It is not known if cetuximab causes harm to the developing baby if it is used by the mother during pregnancy. This medication should not be used during pregnancy unless the benefits outweigh the risks. If you become pregnant while taking this medication, contact your doctor immediately.
Breast-feeding: It is not known if cetuximab passes into breast milk. If you are a breast-feeding mother and are taking this medication, it may affect your baby. Breast-feeding should be stopped while you are being treated with cetuximab and should not be re-started until at least 60 days after the last dose of medication.
Children: The safety and effectiveness of using this medication have not been established for children.