To speak to a specialist cancer nurse,
freefone the National Cancer Helpline
1800 200 700
Mon—Thurs 9am—7pm Fri 9am—5pm
Doctors can now test your cancer to see if Erbitux will work for you.
As with other monoclonal antibodies, erbitux locks onto a protein on the surface of the cancer cell called the EGFRC (epidermal growth factor receptor) . EGFR controls cell growth, so it is thought that Erbitux stops the cancer cell from growing by attaching to the receptor EGFR. It is also thought that Erbitux makes cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.
Erbitux is a colourless liquid.
Erbitux is given into the vein via a plastic tube called a cannula. Usually your first dose of Erbitux is given more slowly so to reduce the chance of you having an allergic reaction. You may also receive other drugs before your Erbitux to help prevent this.
It is difficult to predict whether or not you will get side effects from your Erbitux, and if so what ones. If you experience any changes that you think are related to Erbitux, it is important to discuss these with your doctor or nurse. If you are receiving Erbitux with chemotherapy, your doctor or nurse will explain which side effects are results of which drug.
You will be closely monitored during your first infusion. Normally your first dose is given slowly. It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if you experience any of the following, trouble breathing, cough or wheeze, swollen or irritated feeling in your throat, tongue or nose, rash or itchy skin.
To reduce the chance of reactions, certain drugs can be given before the infusion, as mentioned previously. If you do have a reaction, the drip can be slowed down or stopped and restarted once you are feeling better.
Erbitux can cause skin changes. These changes usually occur within two weeks of starting the treatment and normally disappear after treatment stops. Skin changes vary from person to person; they can include reddening of the skin, red spots or pimples on the face, flaky or scaly skin on the face or dry skin / eczema on the elbows or fingertips. If you have any skin changes, let your doctor or nurse know immediately, they will advise you of appropriate skin care and prescribe treatment if necessary.
Tell your doctor or nurse if your eyes become irritated in any way. Report redness, itchiness, swollen eyelids, and sensitivity to light or watery eyes.
Some patients find the condition of their nails is affected. You may notice they become flaky, brittle, change colour or white lines appear across them. It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if you notice this so that they can best advise you to manage this problem and avoid it getting worse.
You may find your breathing becomes a problem, this is more likely if you have a pre-existing lung problem. Discuss this with your doctor.
Your doctor can prescribe anti-sickness / anti-emetic drugs to stop you feeling sick or vomiting. Tell your doctor or nurse if these medicines are not working for you and they can change them.
Report diarrhoea to your doctor or nurse. There are also medications available to control this. It is important to drink plenty of fluids when you have diarrhoea.
It is important to tell your doctor or nurse if you have any other symptoms that you think might be due to Erbitux.
It is important to tell your doctor what other medications you are taking and if you have any allergies.
Inform your doctor if you have lung problems so that they can properly assess you for this treatment.
National Cancer Helpline
Freefone 1 800 200 700
Talk to a specialist nurse
Have you used the Irish Cancer Society's cancer information services by phone, Daffodil Centre, email, social media or this website? A UCD research team is helping us to evaluate so that we can improve those services.