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Stage IV, Headaches following chemo


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Hi everyone,


My mom is in treatment for Stage IV NSCLC. She originally received Pemetrexed and Avastin but she became neutropenic and was put on chemo vacation for a bit. While she was on break from treatment her kidneys weren't functioning well and her blood pressure was very (uncharacteristically) high. We went to a kidney specialist who could see that the chemo had caused high blood pressure which in turn damaged her kidneys, and she was prescribed BP medication which was working well. Her BP normalized and her kidneys improved, as did her overall health.


Due to its negative effect on the kidneys, her kidney specialist and oncologist decided to drop the Pemetrexed and continue her chemotherapy with Avastin only, since she previously tolerated it well and has had 2 scans showing no new cancer and shrinking in all her other tumors (yay).


She is now two rounds deep into her Avastin-only treatment and has begun experiencing severe headaches. Her blood pressure had elevated and the doctors increased her BP medication in response, but her typical pain regimen has been ineffective. She uses a Fentanyl patch for day-to-day pain management due to bone mets and Oxycodone and Tylenol for breakthrough pain. She is having no success controlling the headache with the Oxy/Tylenol.


It doesn't appear that the headaches are being caused by BP because that is now under control, and her recent MRI has been clear of any new growth or swelling in her brain. Can Avastin be causing her headaches? If anyone else has experienced this, have you found treatment that helps?  She had headaches like this before when she first started chemo and we were unsuccessful in finding a solution... the headaches eventually improved before the doctors could determine the cause. Any help is very appreciated!



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I wish I had ideas for you and your mom.  Although headaches are a noted side effect with taxol carboplatin (my cocktail) I fortunately didn't experience them.  I did have very severe joint pain that started a couple of days after infusion and nothing but time would lesson the pain.  It sounds like you've got all the right pain meds and so did I but they just didn't work.  My wife cut up prescribed Lidocaine transdermal patches and wrapped them around my most painful joints with ace bandages and that sometimes brought enough relief to allow sleep.


I recall listening to books on tape because I couldn't concentrate to read or watch TV, and I found a simple novel narration soothing. 


Stay the course.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Did your mom have a cisplatin or carboplatin combo as her very first line of treatment? Avastin isn't a chemotherapy drug and pemetrexed or avastin is usually given in combination with a "platin" chemotherapy. My experience was actually that the avastin raised my blood pressure. I obviously don't know as much about her cancer as her oncologist does, so I would trust that he is choosing treatments appropriately if she is having a good response.

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