Carboplatin is a chemotherapy treatment for many different types of cancer.
You can have carboplatin by itself or in combination with other chemotherapy drugs depending on the type of cancer you have.
How carboplatin works
Carboplatin interferes with the development of the genetic material in a cell, the DNA. This stops it from dividing into 2 new cells and kills it.
How you have carboplatin
You have this drug into your bloodstream.
You have the treatment through a drip into your arm or hand. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.
You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.
When you have carboplatin
You usually have chemotherapy as a course of several cycles of treatment.
You might have carboplatin every 3 to 4 weeks. Each 3 or 4 week period is a cycle of treatment. You might have between 4 to 6 cycles. How often you have it depends on your type of cancer.
Each treatment takes about an hour.
You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatments you're having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you're also having other drugs or radiotherapy.
When to contact your team
Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:
- you have severe side effects
- your side effects aren’t getting any better
- your side effects are getting worse
Early treatment can help manage side effects better.
We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
Common side effects
These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
Increased risk of getting an infection
Increased risk of getting an infection is due to a drop in white blood cells. Symptoms include a change in temperature, aching muscles, headaches, feeling cold and shivery and generally unwell. You might have other symptoms depending on where the infection is.
Infections can sometimes be life threatening. You should contact your advice line urgently if you think you have an infection.
Breathlessness and looking pale
You might be breathless and look pale due to a drop in red blood cells. This is called anaemia.
Bruising, bleeding gums and nosebleeds
This is due to a drop in the number of platelets in your blood. These blood cells help the blood to clot when we cut ourselves. You may have nosebleeds or bleeding gums after brushing your teeth. Or you may have lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechiae).
Contact your health advice line if any of these happen.
Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) during and after treatment
Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) can happen during and after treatment - doing gentle exercises each day can keep your energy up. Don't push yourself, rest when you start to feel tired and ask others for help.
Feeling or being sick
Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques can all help.
It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.
Changes to how your liver works
You might have liver changes that are usually mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. They usually go back to normal when treatment finishes. You have regular blood tests to check for any changes in the way your liver is working.
To help prevent kidney damage, it is important to drink plenty of water. You might also have fluids into your vein before, during and after treatment. You have blood tests before your treatments to check how well your kidneys are working.
Tummy (abdominal) cramps and pain
Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help.
Occasional side effects
These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- allergic reaction - can happen during treatment let your nurse know if you feel short of breath, feel hot, itchy, shivery
- diarrhoea or constipation - let your doctor or nurse now if this happens they can prescribe some medication to help
- sore mouth and ulcers - use mouthwashes to keep your mouth clean and let your doctor or nurse know
- skin changes such as a rash, itchy skin or sensations of burning and prickling
- flu like symptoms
- numbness and tingling in arms, hands, legs and feet (peripheral neuropathy) - this can happen soon after starting treatment and usually isn't permanent
- hearing problems - this can be ringing in your ears (tinnitus) or changes to your hearing
- hair loss - this can be either thinning of the hair or complete loss and is not usually permanent
- loss of taste or changes to how food and drink tastes - your taste should return after treatment is finished
- changes to your vision including your eyesight getting worse - this is temporary and should return to normal after treatment
- changes to the way your heart works - your doctor will do tests to check for this
- sore muscles, joints and bones
- a decrease in the amount of urine you pass - drink plenty of water and tell your nurse or doctor
- inflammation of the lungs - this can cause shortness of breath and a cough let your doctor know
- wheezing and tightness of the chest
- an increase in the level of uric acid in your blood this can cause gout - you have tests to check for this
Rare side effects
This side effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%).
- a temporary loss of vision
- feeling unwell with either a low temperature (36 degrees Celsius or less) or high temperature (37.5 degrees Celsius or more) and have low level of white blood cells - contact your health care advice line straight away
Other side effects
The following side effects have also been reported. But it's not clear how often they happen. You might have one or more of them. They include:
- loss of appetite
- changes to your blood pressure - this can be either high or low
- blood clots
- pain, redness or swelling at injection site - tell your nurse straight away as this can cause damage to the tissue
- not enough fluid in the body (dehydration) - drink plenty of fluids
- inflammation of the pancreas
- a rare disorder of the nerves causing headache, confusion and changes of vision - contact your health team straight away, this condition is reversible
- a kidney condition that can cause bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, bloating, tummy pain or cramping – contact your team straight away if you have these symptoms
- a small chance of developing another cancer
Coping with side effects
We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.
What else do I need to know?
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.
Loss of fertility
You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future.
Men might be able to store sperm before starting treatment. And women might be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue. But these services are not available in every hospital, so you would need to ask your doctor about this.
Contraception and pregnancy
This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment.
Women must use reliable contraception during treatment. Men must use reliable contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
It is not known whether this drug comes through into the breast milk. Doctors usually advise that you don’t breastfeed during this treatment.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for up to 12 months afterwards. The length of time depends on the treatment you are having. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how long you should avoid live vaccinations.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and one of the shingles vaccines called Zostavax.
You can have:
- other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- the flu vaccine (as an injection)
- the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine - talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to have it in relation to your cancer treatment
Members of your household who are aged 5 years or over are also able to have the COVID-19 vaccine. This is to help lower your risk of getting COVID-19 while having cancer treatment and until your
Contact with others who have had immunisations - You can be in contact with other people who have had live vaccines as injections. Avoid close contact with people who have recently had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines) such as the oral typhoid vaccine.
If your immune system is severely weakened, you should avoid contact with children who have had the flu vaccine as a nasal spray as this is a live vaccine. This is for 2 weeks following their vaccination.
Babies have the live rotavirus vaccine. The virus is in the baby’s poo for about 2 weeks and could make you ill if your immunity is low. Get someone else to change their nappies during this time if you can. If this isn't possible, wash your hands well after changing their nappy.
More information about this treatment
For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.