What is Avastin?
Avastin is a monoclonal antibody. It blocks development of new blood vessels that would send blood supply to feed a tumor.
Why am I getting Avastin?
You are getting Avastin both to treat your tumor and also the symptoms it produces like swelling in your brain. This swelling can cause headaches, changes in wakefulness and weakness. Avastin is particularly good at reducing the swelling, because it helps get rid of excess fluid that is produced by the tumor.
How is Avastin given?
In general, our practice is to first administer Avastin 5 to 7.5 mg/kg by vein every two weeks for three cycles and then move to every three weeks. The dose is based on the weight you were when you started the Avastin. If you lose a significant amount of weight, the dose may change based on your weight.
What to expect
In general, for the first three doses, you will receive the Avastin at Stanford in the Cancer Center in the Infusion Treatment Area (ITA) so we can monitor you for side effects. After the first three doses, Avastin can usually be given at a satellite Stanford location.
Before each dose, you should arrive early for blood work and urine tests. The first infusion will last 90 minutes, but plan to be there about 2 to 3 hours. This is so we can monitor you for side effects.
The second infusion will then be given over 60 minutes (but plan to be there about 2 hours), while the third and subsequent infusions will be administered over 15 to 30 minutes. Generally, there are no side effects so no medications for the prevention of nausea or other symptoms is needed.
How long might I take Avastin?
Unlike conventional chemotherapy, there are no long-term side effects with Avastin, so it can be continued for as long as necessary. We will see you in clinic to monitor how you’re doing and we will have you get an MRI of the brain after each three-dose cycle. Many patients discontinue Avastin when their symptoms are relieved.
Side effects and risks
The most serious problem associated with Avastin is difficulty with wound healing and bleeding. You should not have an elective surgery while receiving Avastin. If needed, we will schedule surgery around Avastin infusions.
Also, if you have had diverticulitis in the past, it is important that we know because you could have a wound in your gastrointestinal system that may become problematic.
Other less common side effects are:
- back pain
- taste change
- dry skin
- inflammation of skin and nose
- watery eyes
Blood pressure can be raised by Avastin and sometimes needs to be treated with medicine.
Published April 2018
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