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List of Drugs Used to Treat Cancer

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/12/2010

Many different types of drugs can be prescribed to treat cancer. Each of these drugs has a specific function and each involves the risk of side effects. The following medication guide provides more detailed information on drugs that treat cancers of the breast, ovaries, lungs, prostate, and skin.

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    This list of cancer treating drugs details the function, uses, and side effects of fifteen medications prescribed for various types of cancer.

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    Breast Cancer Drugs

    These drugs are among those commonly used in the treatment of breast cancer:

    Cytoxan Oral (cyclophosphamide)--a chemotherapy drug that also treats leukemia, ovarian cancer, and lymphoma.

    Side effects: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, hair loss

    Warnings: not recommended for pregnant/breastfeeding women, side effects may increase in children and the elderly

    Tamoxifen Oral--a drug that treats metastastic breast cancer.

    Side effects: nausea, headache, hot flashes, hair loss

    Warnings: rare risk of blood clots, stroke, or development of uterine cancer, not recommended for pregnant/breastfeeding women

    Arimidex Oral (anastrozole)--a breast cancer drug for women who have gone through menopause.

    Side effects: weight changes, hair loss, constipation, nausea, body aches

    Warnings: limit alcohol, use caution when driving, not for pregnant/breastfeeding women

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    Ovarian Cancer Drugs

    Women who have ovarian cancer may be treated with drugs such as:

    Paraplatin (carboplatin)--an intravenous medication that also treats endometrial, testicular, lung, bladder, and esophageal cancer.

    Side effects: hair loss, vomiting, lowered white blood cell count, diarrhea, constipation

    Warnings: not for pregnant women, not for those with kidney/liver disease, may cause sterility

    Abiplatin (cisplatin)--an Intravenous medication that also treats cervical, ovarian, testicular, endometrial, and bladder cancer.

    Side effects: hair loss, lowered white blood cell count, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea

    Warnings: may cause sterility, not for those with kidney damage, not for pregnant women

    Taxotere (docetaxel)--an IV drug that also treats lung, stomach, ovarian, esophageal, prostate, and bladder cancer.

    Side effects: fatigue, severe nausea/vomiting, swelling of hands/feet, muscle/joint pain, hair loss

    Warnings: avoid alcohol, may cause sterility, not for pregnant women, not for those with liver disease

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    Lung Cancer Drugs

    Drugs that may be prescribed for the treatment of lung cancer include:

    Tarceva (erlotinib)--an oral medication that treats metastasized non-small cell lung cancer.

    Side effects: nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, rash, fatigue

    Warnings: not for pregnant women, may cause sterility, rarely causes interstitial lung disease

    Toposar (etoposide)--an oral or IV drug that treats small-cell lung cancer, testicular cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma.

    Side effects: hair loss, lowered white blood cell count, mouth sores, nausea/vomiting

    Warnings: may cause sterility, may cause menopausal symptoms in women, not for pregnant women

    Gemzar (gemcitabine)--an IV drug that also treats pancreatic, breast, bladder, ovarian, and cervical cancer.

    Side effects: fatigue, nausea/vomiting, hair loss, fever, rash

    Warnings: may cause sterility, not for pregnant/breastfeeding women, not for those with kidney or liver disease

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    Prostate Cancer Drugs

    The following drugs are among those that may be prescribed for men with prostate cancer:

    Casodex Oral (bicalutamide)--an oral medication that treats metastasized prostate cancer.

    Side effects: sweating, body pain, hair loss, nausea, diarrhea

    Warnings: limit alcohol, use caution when driving, may cause complications in those with liver disease or diabetes

    Lupron Depot IM (leuprolide)--an injected medication that treats advanced prostate cancer.

    Side effects: night sweats, increased urination, fatigue, mood changes

    Warnings: long-term use may cause osteoporosis, limit alcohol, use caution when driving

    Nilandron Oral (nilutamide)--an anti-androgen drug designed to slow the spread of prostate cancer.

    Side effects: loss of libido, sweating, nausea, stomach pain, dizziness

    Warnings: may cause vision changes, avoid alcohol, use caution when driving

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    Skin Cancer Drugs

    Skin cancer can be treated with drugs such as:

    Fluoroplex (fluorouracil topical)--a topical medication that also treats basal cell carcinoma.

    Side effects: rash, skin irritation, eye irritation, skin peeling

    Warnings: not for pregnant/breastfeeding women, avoid sunlight and UV rays, do not combine with other skin products

    Proleukin (aldesleukin)--an IV drug that treats metastasized skin cancer and kidney cancer.

    Side effects: stomach pain, diarrhea, drowsiness, anxiety

    Warnings: not for pregnant/breastfeeding women, not for organ transplant patients, may interfere with other medications

    Intron A (interferon alfa-2b)--an injected drug that treats malignant melanoma, lymphoma, and leukemia.

    Side effects: muscle pain, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, dry mouth

    Warnings: not for those with liver problems, autoimmune hepatitis, kidney disease, or those who are pregnant/breastfeeding

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    Use this list of cancer treating drugs as a guide to common chemotherapy medications and other medications that aid patients with a cancer diagnosis.

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    References

    WebMD--http://www.webmd.com/ovarian-cancer/guide/ovarian-cancer-medications, http://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/tc/lung-cancer-medications

    HealthCentral--http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/find-drug.html, http://www.healthcentral.com/prostate/find-drug.html

    Drugs.com--http://www.drugs.com/cancer-skin.html