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Bleomycin is a chemotherapy medicine used to treat several types of cancers including testicular cancer, lymphoma, and cancers of the head and neck.

How It Works

Bleomycin interferes with a cell's ability to divide and reproduce, resulting in the death of the cell.

Why It Is Used

Bleomycin is used to slow or stop the spread of cancer cells in the body.

How Well It Works

Bleomycin is an effective anti-tumour 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.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Fever or chills within 3 to 6 hours after getting this medicine.
  • Confusion, faintness, or wheezing.
  • Sudden severe chest pain or a sudden weakness in your arms or legs.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • A cough or shortness of breath.
  • Sores in your mouth and on your lips.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Darkening or thickening of the skin.
  • Skin rash or coloured bumps on the fingertips, elbows, or palms.
  • Vomiting and loss of appetite.

The most serious problem that can happen when you take this medicine is that it can cause scarring of the tissue in your lungs (pulmonary fibrosis). This is more likely to happen in elderly people or in people who get a high total dose.

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

What To Think About

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

For both men and women, bleomycin can affect your ability to have children. You may not be able to get pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Discuss fertility with your doctor before starting treatment.

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

Because bleomycin can damage the lungs, you may have tests to measure the function of your lungs before your doctor prescribes bleomycin. These tests may be repeated over the course of your treatment. Tell your doctor if you have any shortness of breath or other problems breathing after you begin taking bleomycin.

If you have kidney, liver, or lung disease, talk to your doctor before taking bleomycin.

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.