What is platinum chemo?

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What is platinum chemo?

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Senior Editor Melanie Haiken, who is responsible for Caring.com's coverage of cancer, general health, and family finance, discovered how important it is to provide accurate, targeted, usable health information to people facing difficult decisions.

Platinum chemotherapy is the term for treatment with one of the chemotherapy drugs that contain derivatives of the metal platinum. The platinum damages the DNA of the cancer cells and stops them from dividing. The oldest platinum chemotherapy drug is Cisplatin; newer drugs Carboplatin and Oxaliplatin were developed to have fewer side effects.

Platinum chemo agents have been the treatment of choice for ovarian cancer for the past 20 years. Now they are also proving effective against certain other cancers including testicular, bladder, endometrial, colon, and lung cancer and some cancers of the head and neck.

Platinum chemotherapy drugs are given as an intravenous drip. In many cases, Cisplatin and Carboplatin are given in combination with other chemotherapy drugs. For example, most women with ovarian cancer are treated with either Cisplatin or Carboplatin alone, or one of these in combination with  paclitaxel (Taxol). Oxaliplatin is commonly used to treat metastatic colon or rectal cancer, often in combination with fluorouracil or leukovorin.

Chemo agents containing platinum can be very effective in fighting aggressive cancers such as ovarian cancer and late-stage lung and colon cancer, but they also cause many unpleasant side effects such as nausea, fatigue, dry mouth, and neuropathy. They can also cause infertility and kidney damage. In addition, studies have shown that patients who take Cisplatin and Carboplatin have an elevated risk of developing leukemia down the line. Make sure you talk to your doctor about follow up care and monitoring after treatment with platinum chemo.