The chemotherapy drug oxaliplatin is normally given together with other drugs to treat pancreatic cancer.
- It can be used with folinic acid (leucovorin), fluorouracil (5-FU) and irinotecan in FOLFIRINOX.
- It can be used with folinic acid and fluorouracil in FOLFOX.
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Each hospital may do things slightly differently, and treatment will vary depending on your cancer. Speak to your doctor or nurse about your treatment.
FOLFIRNOX can be used in different ways.
- If you have cancer that can be removed with surgery, you may be offered FOLFIRINOX after surgery to try stop the cancer coming back.
- If you have borderline resectable cancer, you may have FOLFIRINOX to try to shrink the cancer to make surgery possible.
- If you have locally advanced or advanced pancreatic cancer, you may have FOLFIRINOX to try to control the growth of the cancer.
FOLFOX may be used if you have locally advanced or advanced pancreatic cancer, and surgery to remove the cancer is not possible. It is used for people who have already had gemcitabine with capecitabine (GemCap) or gemcitabine with nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane®).
You will have your chemotherapy at the hospital as an outpatient. This means that you will go into the hospital for treatment, but you won’t need to stay overnight.
Oxaliplatin is given together with other chemotherapy drugs in the treatments FOLFIRINOX and FOLFOX.
FOLFOX is given in a two-week cycle. The drugs are given over the first two days, and then you will have a break from treatment for 12 days before you have the next chemotherapy cycle. Each chemotherapy team will give the FOLFOX drugs slightly differently. Speak to your chemotherapy team about how you will be given FOLFOX.
- On the first day of treatment you will have an infusion of oxaliplatin and folinic acid. This will take two hours.
- You will then have an injection of fluorouracil into a vein – you may hear this called a bolus injection.
- You will continue to have fluorouracil over 46 hours. This is given through a small pump that attaches to a central line. The pump can be carried around, so you can have the fluorouracil at home.
- After 46 hours, the pump will be disconnected at the hospital, or at home by a nurse.
- You will then have a break from chemotherapy for the next 12 days.
Some people have an allergic reaction while oxaliplatin is being given. Signs of an allergic reaction are:
- an itchy rash,
- feeling dizzy or faint
- or feeling short of breath.
An allergic reaction needs treating straight away, so if you have any of these, tell your chemotherapy team.
Oxaliplatin can cause side effects, but these can affect everyone differently, and you may not get all of the side effects mentioned here. Your chemotherapy team should tell you about possible side effects and how they are managed. Ask them any questions you have. You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line.
Your chemotherapy team should give you an emergency number to call if you are unwell, or if you need information about any side effects. Your nurse will explain when to use this number. If you haven’t been given a number, ask your nurse about this.
Common side effects
Infection. Oxaliplatin can increase your risk of getting an infection. An infection is an emergency if you are having chemotherapy, and needs to be treated straight away. Read more about the signs of an infection, and how they are treated.
Tingling and numbness in your fingers and toes. Oxaliplatin can affect the nerves in your hands and feet, which can cause tingling and numbness (peripheral neuropathy). This normally gets better after your treatment, but for some people it may never go away. Talk to your chemotherapy team if you have any tingling or numbness in your fingers or toes.
Feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting). This is a common side effect of oxaliplatin. You will normally be given anti-sickness medicines before your chemotherapy starts. If these medicines don’t help, speak to your chemotherapy team about changing to a different medicine. We have tips on coping with feeling and being sick.
Fatigue (extreme tiredness). Fatigue is a side effect of oxaliplatin. It isn’t the same as feeling tired. Fatigue can make you feel weak and have problems concentrating. Some people find that the fatigue starts a few hours to a few days after having chemotherapy, and starts to get better after a few days. There are things that you can do to help with fatigue. We have tips on coping with it.
Oxaliplatin may also cause dizziness. Feeling tired and dizzy can affect your ability to drive. If you have these side effects, speak to your doctor about driving.
Problems swallowing and breathing (laryngeal spasm). Oxaliplatin can affect your throat, which can make it hard to swallow or breath. If this happens when you are being given oxaliplatin, tell your nurse straight away. They may stop the infusion of oxaliplatin while they give you medicine to help with this. You may also get this side effect in the first few hours after having oxaliplatin – but this is normally only if you are out in the cold, or having a cold drink. It should stop a few days after your treatment.
Sore mouth and mouth ulcers. Oxaliplatin can make your mouth sore, or cause mouth ulcers which can be painful. Tell your chemotherapy team about any problems you have with your mouth. They can make sure you don’t have a mouth infection, and give you a mouthwash which should help.
Loss of appetite. During your treatment you may not feel like eating, and you may start to lose weight. Try eating small meals often. If your appetite doesn’t get better after a few days, tell your doctor or dietitian. We have tips on dealing with a loss of appetite.
Taste changes. Oxaliplatin may cause a funny taste in your mouth. Some people say this tastes like metal or cardboard. Taste changes normally get better once you finish your chemotherapy. You might find our tips for coping with taste changes helpful.
Bruising and bleeding. Oxaliplatin can lower the number of platelets in your blood – this is called thrombocytopenia. This can cause you to bruise more easily than normal, and may be more likely to have nosebleeds or bleeding gums. Speak to your chemotherapy team straight away if you get any of these side effects.
Anaemia (feeling tired or dizzy). Oxaliplatin can lower the number of red blood cells in your blood. This is called anaemia, and can make you feel tired, dizzy, or short of breath.
Hair loss. Oxaliplatin may cause your hair to thin, or you may lose some hair – but it should grow back once your treatment stops.
Runny poo (diarrhoea). If you have diarrhoea, make sure you drink lots of water. If you have it more than four times a day, tell your chemotherapy team. They can give you medicines to control it.
Problems emptying your bowels (constipation). If you get constipation, drink lots of water and try to eat high fibre foods, such as fruit and vegetables. Gentle exercise such as walking can also help. Speak to your doctor about medicines that can help.
Joint and bone pain. Oxaliplatin can cause problems with your joints, such as swelling or pain. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have this side effect. They can give you painkillers to help.
Less common side effects
- Eye problems. Oxaliplatin can cause sore, itchy or watery eyes. Your doctor or nurse may need to give you some eye drops. Some people get blurred vision when taking oxaliplatin, but this is less common.
- Risk of a blood clot in a vein. Oxaliplatin can increase your risk of a blood clot in a vein. If you have any pain or swelling in one of your arms or legs, or you feel very short of breath, call your chemotherapy team on the emergency number. Or phone an ambulance and tell them you are having chemotherapy. A blood clot is serious if it isn’t treated.
Speak to your doctor or nurse if you experience anything unusual, or if you would like more information. You can also speak to our specialist nurses for information on oxaliplatin or side effects.
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Upated August 2019
Review date August 2021