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Chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) treatment can sometimes produce side effects. Most patients can manage their side effects without stopping therapy.

Before you undergo treatment, talk with your doctor about potential side effects. Drugs and other therapies can prevent or manage many side effects. Many treatment side effects go away or become less noticeable over time.

Tips to prevent and manage side effects

Side Effects of Oral Drug Therapy

Common side effects of Gleevec® include:

  • fluid retention (edema)
  • collection of fluid in the chest (pleural effusion)
  • puffiness around the eyes
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • muscle cramps
  • diarrhea
  • rash
  • chronic fatigue

Common side effects of Tasigna® include:

Common side effects of Sprycel® include:

Common side effects of Bosulif® include:

Cardiac Effects

Uncommonly, patients treated with Gleevec, Sprycel and Tasigna have developed severe congestive heart failure (a weakness of the heart that leads to a buildup of fluid in the lungs and surrounding body tissues) and left ventricular dysfunction (difficulty emptying blood from the left lower chamber of the heart). To date, most of these patients had other health problems and risk factors, including older age and previous medical history of cardiac disease. A possible side effect of Tasigna that needs to be regularly monitored is a heart rhythm condition called QT prolongation. Gleevec and Sprycel may occasionally cause QT prolongation as well in some individuals. Some other medications are also known to cause QT prolongation, and should be avoided whenever possible. Your doctor will give you a list of medications to avoid, and will monitor you for these conditions as needed.

Other Side Effects

Drugs such as interferon and the oral medication hydroxyurea (Hydrea®) are sometimes used when patients react poorly to TKIs. They can have severe side effects, especially in older patients. Side effects, most of which improve after you stop using the drugs, include:

For side effects information, please see the free LLS publication Understanding Side Effects of Drug Therapy and the FDA drug information webpage.

Graft Versus Host Disease

If you undergo allogeneic stem cell transplantation, you're at high risk of developing graft versus host disease (GVHD). The older you are, the higher your risk for GVHD. GVHD develops when the donor's immune cells mistakenly attack the patient's normal cells. GVHD can be mild, moderate or severe - even life threatening.

Long-Term and Late Effects of Treatment

For some patients, side effects may last well after they finish treatment. For more about lingering side effects, see Long-Term and Late Effects of Treatment in Adults.

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last updated on Friday, September 12, 2014

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