Steroids (dexamethasone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone)
Find out about having treatment with steroids. Steroids are used in a number of ways in cancer treatment. Steroids are naturally made by our bodies in small amounts. TheyPhelp to control many functions. But steroids can also be made artificially and used as drugs to treat different diseases, including cancer. Steroids used to treat cancer are usually a type called corticosteroids. These are manPmade versions of the hormonesPproduced by the adrenal glands just above the kidneys. You have steroids as tablets or liquid (if this is easier) to swallow. You take them after a meal or with milk as they can irritate your stomach. P You can also have steroids as an injection into a muscle (intra muscular) or as an injection into a vein (intra venous). You must take the steroidsPaccording to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you. You should take the right dose, not more or less. Never stop taking themPwithout talking to your specialist first. The dose and length of steroid treatment is different depending on why you\’re having steroids. P You should have a blue steroid card to carry with you all the time if you takePsteroids for more than 3 weeks. YourPdoctor or pharmacist might also suggest you wear a medical alert bracelet. This isPso the doctor knows that you are taking steroids, in case you need treatment in an emergency. Also let your dentist know you\’re taking steroids if you need to have any dental work.
You have blood tests before starting treatment and during yourPtreatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working. Keep away from people who have chicken pox or shingles if you have never had these illnesses. They could make you very ill. If you do come into contact with someone who has them, tell your doctor or nurse straight away. Other medicines, food and drink Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. This treatmentPmight harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment. Dont breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk. Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that youre having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems. Dont have immunisations with live vaccines while youre having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, live vaccines includePrubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and shingles vaccineP(Zostavax). have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual Avoid contact with people whove had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines).
This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the babys urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, avoid changingPtheir nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards. You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently. For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC)Pwebsite. You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme. We explain the most common side effects of steroids here. But we donвt include all the rare ones that are unlikely to affect you. You may get some of the side effects we mention but you are very unlikely to get all of them. Always tell your doctor or nurse about the side effects you have. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to help control some side effects. It is very important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has explained. This means they will be more likely to work better for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. After your treatment is over, the side effects will start to improve. Sometimes cancer drugs can result in very serious side effects, which rarely may be life-threatening.
Your cancer doctor and nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you. Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. You can call them if you feel unwell or need advice any time of day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe. Weвre not able to list every side effect for this treatment here, particularly the rarer ones. For more detailed information you can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium ( ). Steroids can irritate the stomach lining. Let your nurse or doctor know if you have indigestion or pain in your tummy. They can prescribe drugs to help reduce stomach irritation. Take your tablets with food to help protect your stomach. Some steroid tablets are coated to help reduce irritation. Steroids can raise your blood sugar levels. Your nurse will check your blood regularly for this. They may also test your urine for sugar. Symptoms of raised blood sugar include feeling thirsty, needing to pass urine more often and feeling tired. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may be higher than usual. Your doctor can talk to you about this. They may adjust your insulin or tablet dose. You may put on weight or your ankles and legs may swell because of fluid building up. This is caused by steroids and is more common if you are taking them for a long time.
Tell your doctor or nurse if fluid builds up. If your ankles and legs swell, it can help to put your legs up on a foot stool or cushion. The swelling gets better after your treatment ends. Steroids can make you feel much hungrier than usual and you may gain weight. Your appetite will go back to normal when you stop taking them. If youвre worried about gaining weight, talk to your doctor or nurse. This is more likely to happen if you are having high-dose steroids or taking them for a long time. Tell your doctor if you notice signs of infection, such as redness, soreness or a temperature. You should also tell them if cuts take longer than usual to heal. Washing your hands thoroughly after meals and using the toilet can help. You should avoid anyone who may have signs of an infection, such as a cold. Women may find that their periods become irregular or stop. These will usually return to normal once treatment with steroids has finished. Steroids can affect your. You may feel anxious or restless, have mood swings or problems sleeping. Taking your steroids in the morning may help if youвre having. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects. They may make some changes to your treatment if the side effects become a problem. If the steroid dexamethasone is given quickly into a vein, it can cause a strange sensation in the area just in front of your back passage (the perineal area). This only lasts for a short time.