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Generic Name: bleomycin (BLEE oh MYE sin)
Brand Name: Bleo 15k, Blenoxane

Medically reviewed by on Aug 10, 2020 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is bleomycin?

Bleomycin is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Bleomycin is used to treat squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer that can affect the mouth, throat, nose and sinuses, penis, vagina, cervix, and other. Bleomycin is also used to treat Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, testicular cancer, and malignant pleural effusion (a build-up of fluid in the outer tissues of the lungs, caused by certain types of cancer).

Bleomycin treats only the symptoms of these conditions but does not treat cancer itself.

Bleomycin may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

While you are being treated with bleomycin, be sure you can get medical help quickly in case you have any serious side effects.

Call your doctor at once if you feel tired, light-headed, or short of breath, or if you have chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, a dry cough, a decreased appetite, or rapid weight loss.

Before taking this medicine

You should not receive bleomycin if you have ever had an allergic reaction to it.

To make sure bleomycin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • lung disease or a breathing disorder;

  • kidney disease; or

  • liver disease.

Do not use bleomycin if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby. Use effective birth control, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

It is not known whether bleomycin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are being treated with bleomycin.

How is bleomycin given?

Bleomycin is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein or muscle, or as a shot given under the skin. When treating pleural effusion, bleomycin is given through a chest tube. You will receive this injection in a clinic or hospital setting.

Bleomycin is usually given once or twice per week, depending on the condition being treated. Follow your doctor's instructions.

To be sure this medication is not causing harmful effects on your lungs, you may need to have chest X-rays or other lung function tests.

If you need surgery, tell the surgeon ahead of time that you are being treated with bleomycin.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your bleomycin injection.

What happens if I overdose?

Since this medication is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid while receiving bleomycin?

bleomycin can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Bleomycin side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Bleomycin can cause breathing problems. While you are being treated with this medicine, be sure you can get medical help quickly in case you have any serious side effects.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • sudden chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, dry cough or hack;

  • shortness of breath;

  • confusion, feeling weak or tired, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss;

  • fever or chills;

  • a light-headed feeling, feeling like you might pass out;

  • white patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips;

  • severe redness, itching, rash, blistering, or tenderness of your skin; or

  • unusual hardening or thickening of your skin.

Some side effects may be more likely in older adults.

Common side effects may include:

  • dark streaks or discoloring on your skin;

  • fingernail or toenail changes;

  • temporary hair loss;

  • mild itching;

  • vomiting;

  • pain near your tumor; or

  • redness, warmth, itching, or swelling around the IV needle.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect bleomycin?

Other drugs may interact with bleomycin, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.