Avastin — or Mvasi, a biosimilar — is not a typical chemotherapy drug. It’s a type of targeted therapy called a monoclonal antibody, which is often given to stage IV patients alongside chemo. Side effects from Avastin are usually very mild.
Side effects can include:
Whew, sounds like a lot, right? Remember that you likely won’t experience all of these side effects — because everyone’s bodies are different.
If you ever feel like you can’t manage your side effects and symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor about pre-meds or complimentary meds to manage them. You can also ask for a referral to the palliative care specialist or team at your cancer center. It’s important to note that palliative care is not the same as hospice care. Palliative care helps patients manage symptoms, and it can be extremely helpful for many people.
Remember that it’s important to check in with your healthcare team before starting any supplements, complementary therapies or fasting regimens. These treatments might not be appropriate for everyone — and some may even interfere with chemotherapy.
Avastin slows down a tumor’s ability to form new blood vessels — so the drug can also interfere with normal blood vessel function and cause bleeding.
Many patients experience nose bleeds while on Avastin. Do your best to avoid cuts and scrapes. If you do get cut, make sure to clean the wound and apply pressure to help stop the bleeding quickly. Most patients view nosebleeds as a minor annoyance, but it’s a good idea to carry some tissues around with you, just in case!
Because Avastin interferes with VEGF signaling, it increases the risk of getting a hole in your bowels (also known as perforation).
Avastin can also cause fistulas, which are abnormal channels or passageways between body parts. This is a rare but important side effect, so not everyone may be able to get Avastin
Avastin can cause wounds to heal slower — so if you have had a port placed recently, or any other type of surgery, your oncologist will probably hold off on Avastin until you have fully recovered.
This drug can cause high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Your healthcare team will monitor your blood pressure carefully. If it gets too high, they may consider reducing your dose, or prescribing medication to lower it. If this becomes an issue for you, it might be a good idea to purchase a machine to monitor blood pressure at home.
Avastin can interfere with kidney function, and cause kidneys to excrete protein into the urine. Your team will monitor this closely to make sure your kidneys are working well, and make adjustments to your treatment as needed.
Avastin can cause your platelets to drop. Platelets help your blood clot — so low levels can cause bruising, nosebleeds and sensitive gums. Avastin is usually given with other chemotherapy, which can contribute to low platelets. Your care team may decide to stop Avastin if your platelets stay low and they suspect that Avastin is responsible.
Avastin can cause soreness or stiffness in your bones and joints. Talk to your oncologist if you experience these symptoms.
It’s a good idea to keep a journal or notes about your side effects, so you can discuss them with your oncologist at your next appointment. This can help you advocate for changes to your pre-meds and home meds as necessary. Be sure to discuss possible side effects with your oncologist, so you know what’s normal and what might be concerning. Before your first treatment, you should have been given a 24-hour phone number to call in case of severe symptoms.
Some of these symptoms include:
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Last updated: May 30, 2023