Bleomycin: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Dosage

It is a chemotherapy drug used to treat testicular cancer, lymphoma, cervical cancer, and head and neck cancer.

Bleomycin is used to treat squamous cell carcinoma, a skin cancer that can affect the mouth, throat, nose and sinuses, penis, vagina, cervix, and others.

Bleomycin is also used to treat Hodgkin’s disease and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and malignant pleural effusion (a build-up of fluid in the outer tissues of the lungs, caused by certain types of cancer).

Bleomycin only treats the symptoms of these conditions, but does not treat the cancer itself.

While you are being treated with this medicine, be sure to get medical help quickly in case you have any serious side effects.

Call your doctor right away if you feel tired, lightheaded, or short of breath, or if you have chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, a dry cough, decreased appetite, or rapid weight loss.

You should not receive bleomycin if you have ever had an allergic reaction.

Bleomycin is usually given into a vein. You can have it as an outpatient or during a hospital stay. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you how often you will have it.

If you need medical attention for any reason other than cancer, always inform the healthcare personnel that you are receiving this treatment.

To make sure bleomycin is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:

  • Lung disease or a breathing disorder
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease

Do not use bleomycin if you are pregnant. Use effective contraception and tell your doctor if you become pregnant during treatment.

It is not known whether bleomycin passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breastfeed while you are taking bleomycin.

Side effects of bleomycin

Bleomycin can cause breathing problems. While you are being treated with this medicine, be sure to get medical help quickly in case you have any serious side effects.

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Sudden chest pain or discomfort, wheezing, dry cough.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Confusion, feeling weak or tired, loss of appetite, rapid weight loss.
  • Fever or chills
  • A feeling of dizziness, feeling like you might pass out.
  • White patches or sores inside your mouth or on your lips.
  • Severe redness, itching, rash, blisters, or skin tenderness.
  • Unusual hardening or thickening of your skin.

Some side effects may be more likely in older adults.

Common side effects can include:

  • Dark streaks or discoloration on your skin.
  • Changes in the toenail.
  • Temporary hair loss
  • Mild itching
  • Vomiting
  • Pain near your tumor.
  • Redness, warmth, itching, or swelling around the IV needle.

Bleomycin interactions

Bleomycin can easily get into body fluids like urine, feces, and vomit. After receiving a dosage it is advisable to abstain from body fluids contacting the hands. For this reason, doctors must wear a glove at all times to carry out the necessary check-ups.

Other drugs can interact with bleomycin, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your healthcare providers about all the medications you currently use and any medications you start or stop using.


Bleomycin is given as an injection through a needle that is put into a vein or muscle, or as an injection given under the skin. In the treatment of pleural effusion, bleomycin is administered through a chest tube. You will receive this injection in a clinic or hospital.

Bleomycin is usually given once or twice a week, depending on the condition being treated. Follow the instructions of your doctor.

To make sure this drug is not causing harmful effects on your lungs, you may need to have a chest X-ray or other lung function tests.

If you need surgery, tell the surgeon in advance that you are being treated with bleomycin.

Because this medication is administered by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.