Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) is an FDA-approved treatment for prostate, skin, lung, and liver cancer. It is also used in combination with other treatment regimens for cancers of head and neck, urethra, bladder, esophagus, kidney, and large intestine. Pembrolizumab is also found to be effective in the treatment of Hodgkin’s disease.
It falls under the class of medications called monoclonal antibodies. It works by helping your immune system slow or stop cancer cell growth.
Let us walk you through the key things you need to know about pembrolizumab.
How should I take pembrolizumab (Keytruda)?
Pembrolizumab comes as a solution which is injected into a vein over 30 minutes by a doctor or nurse in a medical facility.
Pembrolizumab injection may cause serious reactions during, or shortly after the infusion of the medication. If you experience any of the following symptoms, tell your doctor immediately: flushing, fever, chills, shaking, dizziness, feeling faint, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, itching, rash, or hives.
Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling during your treatment. You can help them by tracking your side effects in Ankr.
You can also visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website to obtain the Medication Guide.
What are the side effects of pembrolizumab (Keytruda)?
Common side effects
- joint pain and back pain
- swelling of body or face
- changes in skin color
- extreme tiredness or lack of energy
- blisters or peeling skin; skin redness; rash; or itching
- painful sores or ulcers in the mouth, nose, throat, or genital area
- increased or decreased appetite
- increased thirst
- pain in upper right part of the stomach
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- changes in weight (gain or loss)
- hair Loss
- increased sweating
- feeling cold
- tingling and weakness in the feet, legs, hands, and arms
- severe or persistent headache, muscle aches
- severe muscle weakness
Serious side effects
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- new or worsening cough
- stools that are black, tarry, sticky, or contain blood or mucus
- severe abdominal pain
- easy bleeding or bruising
- fast heartbeat
- deepening of voice or hoarseness
- swelling in front of the neck (goiter)
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- change in amount or color of urine
- pain or a burning sensation while urinating
- blood in urine
- changes in vision
- feeling confused
Pembrolizumab injection may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while receiving 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).
What special precautions should I follow?
Before receiving pembrolizumab or keytruda
- tell your doctor about your allergies
- tell your doctor about other intakes
- tell your doctor about any other disease, symptom, or treatment in the past or now
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. You should not become pregnant while you are receiving pembrolizumab injection and for 4 months after your final dose. Talk to your doctor about birth control methods that will work for you.
While you are on pembrolizumab or Keytruda
- If you become pregnant while receiving pembrolizumab injection, call your doctor immediately. Pembrolizumab injection may harm the fetus.
- tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Your doctor may tell you not to breastfeed while receiving pembrolizumab injection, and for 4 months after your final dose.
In case of an emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can’t be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
What dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
Last Revised – 06/20/2023, FDA updated- 28/04/2020, SG
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