Cisplatin basics

Cisplatin belongs to a class of medications known as platinum-containing compounds. It works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells. You can read more about how it works in the “How cisplatin works” section below. It is used (often in combination with other medications) to treat several different cancers.

Cisplatin is used for
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Biliary (bile duct) cancer
  • Cancer of the testicles that has not improved or that has worsened after treatment with other medications or radiation therapy
  • Cancer of the ovaries (cancer that begins in the female reproductive organs where eggs are formed) that has not improved or that has worsened after treatment with other medications or radiation therapy
  • Bladder cancer that can not be treated with surgery or radiation therapy alone
  • Head and neck cancer (including cancer of the mouth, lip, cheek, tongue, palate, throat, tonsils, and sinuses)
  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma (cancer in the lining of the chest or abdomen)
  • Cancer of the cervix and esophagus
  • Brain tumors
  • Neuroblastoma (cancer that begins in nerve cells and occurs mainly in children)
  • Cisplatin may be prescribed for other uses – ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information

How is Cisplatin given

Cisplatin injection comes as a solution (liquid) to be injected over 2 to 8 hours intravenously (into a vein) by a doctor or nurse in a medical facility. It is usually given once every 3 to 4 weeks.

Side Effects of Cisplatin

Cisplatin may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Loss in ability to taste food
  • Hiccups
  • Dry mouth, dark urine, decreased sweating, dry skin, and other signs of dehydration
Serious side effects

Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms or those listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section, call your doctor immediately:

  • swelling, pain, redness, or burning at the injection site
  • pain, burning, or tingling in the hands or feet
  • muscle cramps
  • difficulty walking
  • feeling of an electric-like shock when you bend your neck forward
  • seizures
  • sudden changes in vision, including color vision 
  • loss of vision
  • eye pain
  • chest pain or pressure
  • fever, sore throat, chills, or other signs of infection
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • black and tarry stools
  • red blood in stools
  • bloody vomit
  • vomited material that looks like coffee grounds

Cisplatin may increase the risk that you will develop other cancers. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking this medication. Cisplatin may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online or by phone (1-800-332-1088).

In case of emergency/overdose

In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.

Symptoms of overdose may include
  • decreased urination
  • swelling of the face, arms, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • yellowing of the skin or eyes 
  • pain in the upper right part of the stomach
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • hearing problems
  • sudden changes in vision
  • fever, sore throat, chills, or other signs of infection
  • pain, burning, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
Precautions to follow for cisplatin

Before taking cisplatin, tell your Doctor and medical team:

  • if you are allergic to cisplatin, carboplatin (Paraplatin), any other medications, or any of the ingredients in cisplatin injection. Ask your pharmacist for a list of the ingredients.
  • what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention the medications listed in the IMPORTANT WARNING section and any of the following: amphotericin B (Abelcet; AmBisome; Amphotec, Fungizone Intravenous), anticonvulsants such as phenytoin (Dilantin), bumetanide (Bumex), ethacrynic acid (Edecrin), furosemide (Lasix), pyridoxine (Vitamin B-6). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects. Many other medications may also interact with cisplatin, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list.
  • if you have kidney disease or hearing problems. Your doctor may not want you to receive cisplatin injection.
  • if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding. You should not become pregnant or breast-feed while you are receiving cisplatin. If you become pregnant while receiving cisplatin, call your doctor. Cisplatin may harm the fetus.
Self care tips for cisplatin
  • To reduce nausea, take anti-nausea medications as prescribed by your doctor, eat small amounts of food frequently.
  • Try dry cereal, toast, or crackers, especially in the morning, to help curb nausea.
  • Maintaining a good fluid intake is very important to help to avoid kidney damage. Drink at least two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
  • You may be at risk of infection so try to avoid crowds or people with colds, and report fever or any other signs of infection immediately to your health care provider.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • To help treat/prevent mouth sores, use a soft toothbrush, and rinse three times a day with 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 8 ounces of water.
  • Use an electric razor and a soft toothbrush to minimize bleeding.
  • In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely. You should discuss this with your doctor.
  • Avoid sun exposure. Wear SPF 30 (or higher) sunblock and protective clothing.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Maintain good nutrition.
  • If you experience symptoms or side effects, be sure to discuss them with your health care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.
How Cisplatin works

Cancerous tumors are characterized by cell division, which is no longer controlled as it is in normal tissue. “Normal” cell stop dividing when they come into contact with like cells, a mechanism known as contact inhibition. Cancerous cells lose this ability. Cancer cells no longer have the normal checks and balances in place that control and limit cell division. The process of cell division, whether normal or cancerous cells, is through the cell cycle. The cell cycle goes from the resting phase, through active growing phases, and then to mitosis (division).

The ability of chemotherapy to kill cancer cells depends on its ability to stop cell division. Usually, the drugs work by damaging the RNA or DNA that tells the cell how to copy itself in division. If the cells are unable to divide, they die. The faster the cells are dividing, the more likely it is that chemotherapy will kill the cells, causing the tumor to shrink. They also induce cell suicide (self-death or apoptosis).

Chemotherapy drugs that affect cells only when they are dividing are called cell-cycle specific. Chemotherapy drugs that affect cells when they are at rest are called cell-cycle non-specific. The scheduling of chemotherapy is set based on the type of cells, rate at which they divide, and the time at which a given drug is likely to be effective. This is why chemotherapy is typically given in cycles.

Chemotherapy is most effective at killing cells that are rapidly dividing. Unfortunately, chemotherapy does not know the difference between the cancerous cells and the normal cells. The “normal” cells will grow back and be healthy but in the meantime, side effects occur. The “normal” cells most commonly affected by chemotherapy are the blood cells, the cells in the mouth, stomach and bowel, and the hair follicles; resulting in low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea, diarrhea, and/or hair loss. Different drugs may affect different parts of the body.

Brand names: Platinol®, Platinol-AQ®
Other names: cis-DDP, cis-Diamminedichloroplatinum, cis-Platinum II, DDP

Last updated: 8/7/21 A

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