Please read this information in conjunction with our general information on chemotherapy, and with the information in relation to your specific type of cancer.

What is Oxaliplatin ?

Oxaliplatin is a chemotherapy drug used mainly to treat bowel cancer that has recurred or progressed following first line treatment with fluorouracil, leucovorin, and irinotecan.

 What does it look like?

Oxaplilatin is a powder for injection but once disolved in water is a clear colourless fluid.

How is it given?

  • It is given as injection into a vein via a cannula.
  • It is given in the form of a drip through a cannula or central line or PICC line.

Side effects

The side effects mentioned below may not affect everyone, as each patient's reaction to chemotherapy is different. It will also depend on how many chemotherapy drugs you are receiving. If you experience any side effects that you think are related to your chemotherapy, please discuss them with your oncology doctor or chemotherapy nurse.

Numbness in the hands or feet

This numbness is called peripheral neuropathy and is caused as a result of damage to the nerve endings from the drug oxaliplatin. This sensation of numbness or tingling may be experienced in the hands, feet, neck or throat.
The cold, eg cold air, cold drinks, ice cubes, may trigger the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. If this is the case you should avoid cold sensations and keep warm in cold weather. Peripheral neuropathy may not occur after the first treatment but after several treatments. It is important to report any symptoms to your doctor who can lower the dose of the drug you are receiving to control your symptoms. All numbness and tingling sensations should improve once the treatment finishes.
For more information on peripheral neuropathy, please see our factsheet.


You will be more prone to infection as oxaliplatin affects your white cell production from the bone marrow. This effect usually occurs about 7 - 10 days after your chemotherapy. You will have blood tests to check your levels before every chemotherapy dose to ensure your blood levels have returned to normal. Occasionally your treatment may be delayed until your blood levels come back to normal. If you notice any signs of infection visit your doctor for assessment.
You should contact your doctor or the Oncology Unit straight away if you if you have a sore throat,cough, pain passing urine, redness and swelling at e.g. at a catheter site. Or have a temperature of 38 degrees° C or greater.


Oxaplatin can also affect the production of platelets, which can cause bleeding or bruising. Inform your doctor if you notice any unexplained bleeding or bruising.


You may feel lethargic and breathless due to a reduction in your red cells caused by oxaliplatin. Inform your doctor if you are feeling these effects.

Nausea and vomiting

Oxaliplatin   can make you feel sick nausea or to to be sick vomit  . It may occur a few hours after you receive your first dose of oxaliplatin and can last for several days in some cases. Your doctor will prescribe some medications to prevent this anti-emetics  .If you continue to feel sick it is important to inform your doctor.


If Diarrhoea occurs it can be easily controlled with medicine. It is important to drink plenty of fluid if you experience diarrhoea and to inform your doctor or nurse.


You may feel very tired. This can last for a few months after your treatment. Inform your doctor or nurse of how you are feeling.

Less common side-effects

Allergic reactions

Some patients may experience some breathlessness, headaches; back pain, skin rash or facial swelling once the drug has been given. If you experience any of these effects tell your doctor or nurse immediately. You will be monitored very closely for signs of allergic reaction during your treatment.

Sore Mouth

You may develop a sore mouth or ulcers due to your chemotherapy. You will be prescribed some mouthwashes. Inform your doctor or nurse if your mouth becomes sore or you develop ulcers. You may also experience some taste changes, which will resolve after you finish your treatment.

Breathing and swallowing difficulties

In very rare cases the area around the voice box can be affected by oxaliplatin and result in a spasm of the voice box. This can lead to a difficulty in swallowing or breathing. It is only a temporary side effect and may be triggered by cold. For this reason it is advisable to avoid such things as cold dinks for a few days following treatment. It is very important to inform your doctor if you notice this sensation.

Additional information


You may experience a pain or swelling at the injection site (cannula) in you hand or arm while you are having your oxaliplatin treatment. You should inform your nurse or doctor if this occurs.

Other medications

It is important to inform your doctor of any medications that you are taking, including over the counter medications or herbal drugs as they can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.


It is important to discuss this with your doctor as your fertility may be affected by oxaliplatin.


It is important to use a reliable form of contraception while you are on treatment and for at least two years after your treatment has completed. It is not advised to get pregnant or father a child while on treatment as the drugs may affect the foetus.


  • British National Formulary (53rd edition). British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britian, March 2007.
  • The Chemotherapy Source Book (2rd edition). Ed. Perry. Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 1997.
  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Handbook of Cancer Chemotherapy. Ed. Brightwood, D., Ford, H., Johnston, S., Ross, P. and Wood, M. 2005
  • Oncology Nursing Drug Handbook. Ed. Barton-Burke, M. and Wilkes, G 2005.

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