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Etoposide is a chemotherapy medicine used to treat several types of cancers, including testicular cancer and some lung cancers.

How It Works

Etoposide seems to interfere with the growth of cancer cells. This causes cancer cells to die.

Why It Is Used

Etoposide slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

How Well It Works

Etoposide is an effective antitumor medicine. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing or tightness in your throat.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • A fast heartbeat or sweating.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Unusual tiredness or weakness.
  • Black, tarry stools or blood in your stools.
  • Blood in your urine or painful urination (with fever or chills).
  • Fever or chills with or without lower back or side pain.
  • Sores in your mouth or on your lips.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Loss of appetite.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhea.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Etoposide should be administered only under the supervision of a medical oncologist.

Taking etoposide can increase your chances of getting an infection, so do your best to stay away from sick people. It may also keep your blood from clotting normally, so be very careful when using sharp objects.

You may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

Etoposide can cause birth defects. Do not use this drug if you are pregnant or wish to become pregnant or father a child while you are taking it.

Women taking this medicine may experience menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness.

Talk to your doctor before taking etoposide if you have an infection or kidney or liver disease. And let your doctor know if you have had shingles or chickenpox (or have recently been exposed to chickenpox).

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS - Urology, Oncology
Last Revised March 16, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.