These Common Breast Cancer Medications Have Surprisingly Dangerous Side Effects

If you or a family member recently received a breast cancer diagnosis, there are several things you’ll be asked to do to help you get better. One of those steps will likely involve taking medications. Although some of these medications can help fight cancer or reduce your chance of developing the disease, there can be some concerning side effects.

Here are some common breast cancer medications that have surprisingly dangerous side effects.

Anastrozole

Woman has Chest Pain at Park

Chest pain is one of the many side effects. | iStock.com/champja

Anastrozole is also known by the brand name Arimidex. It is often used to treat breast cancer in women after menopause. Some serious side effects associated with this medication include skin lesions, ulcers, or blisters; yellowing of the skin or eyes; blurred vision; chest pain; shortness of breath; difficulty swallowing or breathing; and swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, throat, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs.

Next: This medication could put you at risk for this life-threatening side effect.

Capecitabine

Image of beautiful young woman sitting on toilet.

Watch out for strange looking stool. | iStock.com/vadimguzhva

Capecitabine is also known by the brand name Xeloda. This drug could cause serious or life-threatening bleeding if you take it with anticoagulants (also called blood thinners) such as warfarin. MedlinePlus recommends seeking immediate medical attention if you experience serious symptoms such as bleeding easily; vomiting or spitting up blood or a brown substance that looks like coffee grounds; bloody or black, tarry stools; blood in your urine; or easy bruising.

Next: This drug has several negative side effects.

Carboplatin

Woman blowing her nose into a tissue.

Congestion is one of the many side effects. | Sam Edwards/OJO Images/Getty Images

This is a chemotherapy drug that contains platinum. The drug can be used alone or combined with other cancer medications. It is usually administered intravenously. Carboplatin can cause a significant decrease in the number of blood cells in your bone marrow. MedlinePlus warns this could raise your risk of developing a serious infection or bleeding.

Other serious side effects include fever, sore throat, chills, cough and congestion, and additional signs of infection. You could also develop increased bleeding or bruising, black or tarry stools, blood in your stools, bloody vomit, and vomit that looks like coffee grounds.

Next: This drug could cause breathing difficulty.

Cyclophosphamide

Woman having trouble in breathing

Even a mellow walk may leave you gasping for air. | iStock.com/OcusFocus 

Cyclophosphamide works by reducing your immune system’s response to different diseases. In addition to breast cancer, the drug is used to treat cancers such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Some serious side effects from using cyclophosphamide include unusual bruising or bleeding, poor or slow wound healing, chest pain, shortness of breath, swelling of the extremities, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Next: Changes to your lifestyle and diet could help reduce some side effects of this drug.

Doxorubicin

Hungry woman holding knife and fork

Missing your usual appetite? This may be why.| iStock.com/beer5020

This medication is also known by the brand names Adriamycin and Rubex. Some troubling side effects include severe nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss. The experts at WebMD suggest diet and lifestyle modifications, such as consuming several small meals a day and reducing physical activity, to help limit some of the side effects. In addition, doxorubicin could cause serious or life-threatening heart problems at any time during your treatment or even months to years after the conclusion of treatment.

Next: This drug has several side effects that could cause skin changes.

Fulvestrant

You'll think twice about hopping into the hot tub after you read about folliculitis.

Hives or a rash may show up. | iStock.com/parinyabinsuk

Fulvestrant is an antiestrogen medication also known by the brand name Falsodex. Some serious side effects associated with this medication include shortness of breath, chest pain, hives, rash, itching, swelling, itching, yellowing of the skin or eyes, and stomach pain. Other potential side effects include dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, and vomiting.

Next: This drug treats several types of cancer.

Gemcitabine

Woman vomiting into the toilet bowl

Stomach sickness may be one such side effect. | LarsZahnerPhotography/Getty Images

In addition to breast cancer, this chemotherapy drug is also used to treat cancers that affect the lung, ovaries, and pancreas. Some side effects include sores in the mouth and throat, vomiting, hair loss, coughing up or vomiting blood, fatigue, a fast or pounding heartbeat, hives, and difficulty breathing or swallowing. Some symptoms of overdosing on this drug include extreme fatigue, a severe rash, and bleeding.

Next: This drug could cause difficulty with movement.

Goserelin

Leg Pain In A Woman on green

Strange pain in your body may show up. | iStock.com/kwanchaichaiudom

Goserelin is also known by the brand name Zoladex. Some serious side effects of this drug include decreased consciousness, inability to move your legs, difficulty breathing or swallowing, chest pain, weakness or numbness of an arm or leg, slow or difficult speech, bone pain, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, extreme thirst, and frequent urination.

Next: This medication could wreck your liver.

Lapatinib

Woman having stomach pain

This side effect is a serious one. | iStock.com/Nikodash

Lapatinib is also known by the brand name Tykerb. Lapatinib can cause severe or life-threatening liver damage. This damage to your liver can occur as soon as several days or as late as several months after the start of treatment, according to the experts at MedlinePlus. Other serious side effects include shortness of breath; fast, irregular, or pounding heartbeat; coughing up pink or bloody mucus; and swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs.

Next: Watch out for these potentially dangerous signs and symptoms.

Paclitaxel

`1Sick man with fever coughing

You may just feel off. | iStock.com/ PRImageFactory

Paclitaxel is also known by the brand names Onxol and Taxol. Paclitaxel could cause a significant decrease in the number of white blood cells in your blood. Since white blood cells are necessary to fight infection, this could increase your risk of developing a serious infection. If you’re on this medication, it is recommended that you seek immediate medical attention if you show signs of infection such as a temperature greater than 100.4 °F (38 °C); a sore throat; cough; chills; difficult, frequent, or painful urination; or other signs of infection, according to MedlinePlus.

Next: Pregnancy could be a big problem with this drug.

Pertuzumab

Pregnant woman holding belly

Never take this medication if you’re expecting. | iStock.com/tamaravidmar

Pertuzumab is also known by the brand name Perjeta. One serious side effect of using this medication is pregnancy loss. Consequently, Medline Plus warns that the pertuzumab injection shouldn’t be used if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant. Patients are usually required to have a pregnancy test before receiving this drug. Other serious side effects include shortness of breath; swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs; and sore throat, fever, chills, cough, and other signs of infection.

Next: This drug could raise your clotting risk.

Raloxifene

Girl shows pushing the skin of the legs cellulite.

Signs of a blood clot may show up. | dimid_86/iStock/Getty Images

 Raloxifene is also known by the brand name Evista. It is often used to reduce the chance of getting invasive breast cancer after menopause. It is also used to prevent and treat osteoporosis after menopause. Some serious side effects include an increased risk of developing a blood clot in your legs or lungs.

Next: Your stroke risk could significantly increase on this drug.

Tamoxifen

Do your eyes keep giving out? This may be why.| kosmos111/iStock/Getty Images

Tamoxifen has several concerning side effects. On rare occasions the drug has caused serious (sometimes fatal) strokes, blood clots in the lungs and legs, and cancer of the uterus, according to WebMD. Other serious side effects include bleeding, blisters, swelling, yellowing of the skin and eyes, problems with vision, rash, fever, and muscle weakness.

Next: Your heart health could be at risk if you take this drug.

Trastuzumab

woman clutching her chest while walking outside

Trouble breathing may mean something’s wrong with your lungs. | iStock.com

Trastuzumab is also known by the brand name Herceptin. This medication is commonly used to treat tumors that produce an excessive amount of a certain substance called HER2 protein, according to WebMD. Trastuzumab injection could lead to serious or life-threatening heart problems. It could also cause severe lung damage. Other serious side effects include unusual bleeding, fatigue, and fever.

Next: Watch out for these signs and symptoms.

Vinorelbine

Side view of sick woman having coffee

You may just not feel like yourself. | iStock.com/IPGGutenbergUKLtd

Vinorelbine can cause a significant decline in the number of blood cells in your bone marrow. Consequently, you could be at a higher risk of getting a serious infection. It is recommended that you see your doctor right away if you develop a fever, sore throat, persistent cough and congestion, or any other signs of infection. Some serious side effects associated with this drug are irregular heartbeat, chest pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing, shortness of breath, hives, and bleeding.

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