Allergic reactions, also known as hypersensitivity reactions, happen when the body develops a set of symptoms in an exaggerated response to a foreign substance (e.g. drug, food, pollen, etc). One of the most common hypersensitivity reactions during the cancer treatment phase happens during infusions of anticancer drugs, when the body reacts to the drug. This write up focuses on allergic reactions related to infusions of anticancer drugs.
Causes of Allergic Reactions
Allergic reactions have been reported with most anticancer drugs, but occur more commonly with the following:
What you need to look out for
Some allergic reactions may occur immediately upon infusion, while others may take hours to develop. They range from mild to severe. A severe allergic reaction can occur rapidly to affect the whole body, and can be life-threatening if not taken care of immediately.
Mild allergic reactions can present as:
Moderate to severe reactions can present as:
How it can be treated
For anticancer drugs that are known to commonly cause allergic reactions, pre-medications (medications given prior to your anticancer drug infusion) will usually be prescribed to prevent or lessen reactions where needed. However, allergic reactions may still occur, and if they do, a doctor will assess you, determine the severity of the reaction and may do the following:
What you can do
The following are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk of allergic reactions from anticancer drug infusions:
Before your treatment
When to call your cancer care team
Because it can be life-threatening, you are advised to
seek emergency help if you experience the following symptoms:
If you are receiving treatment at NCCS Ambulatory Treatment Unit, please contact your nurse chemotherapy educator, or refer to “Your Guide to Chemotherapy Booklet” if you have any questions regarding allergic reactions from your treatment regimen. For all other general enquiries, please call Cancer Helpline at
+65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
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The above contents are made available as part of TEMASEK FOUNDATION-ACCESS (Accessible Cancer Care to Enable Support for Survivors) PROGRAMME, a holistic care programme to support cancer patients during their care and recovery journey.
The contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers. However, this information serves only as a guide and should not be used as a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or advice. For specific medical conditions, please seek expert medical advice from your healthcare team.
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