Avastin (bevacizumab) is a prescription brand-name medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the following types of cancer in adults in certain situations:

Avastin isn’t a chemotherapy drug, but it’s often used in combination with chemotherapy.

Here are some fast facts about Avastin:

  • Active ingredient: bevacizumab
  • Drug class: vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitor
  • Drug form: IV infusion

Like other cancer treatments, Avastin can cause many side effects. Read on to learn about potential common, mild, and serious side effects. For a general overview of Avastin, including details about its uses, see this article.

Avastin can cause a variety of side effects, some of which are more common than others. The drug’s side effects may vary depending on which type of cancer it’s treating, such as ovarian cancer or brain cancer. These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. But if the side effects last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

The list below includes a few of the most common side effects reported by people who used Avastin in clinical trials for different types of cancer:

* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.

Mild side effects can occur with Avastin use. This list doesn’t include all possible mild side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Avastin’s prescribing information.

Mild side effects that have been reported with Avastin include:

* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.

These side effects may be temporary, lasting a few days to weeks. But if the side effects last longer than that, bother you, or become severe, be sure to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a drug, it tracks adverse effects of the medication. If you develop a side effect while using Avastin and want to tell the FDA about it, visit MedWatch.

Avastin may cause serious side effects in some people. The list below may not include all possible serious side effects of the drug. For more information, you can refer to Avastin’s prescribing information.

If you develop serious side effects while using Avastin, talk with your doctor right away. If the side effects seem life threatening or you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Serious side effects that have been reported and their symptoms include:

* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.
† An allergic reaction is possible after using Avastin. But it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in clinical trials.

Avastin may cause several side effects. Here are some frequently asked questions about the drug’s side effects and their answers.

What side effects should I expect when using Avastin with Doxil? How about with FOLFIRI?

Avastin is commonly used in combination with chemotherapy, such as Doxil (doxorubicin) and FOLFIRI, and side effects can vary. FOLFIRI refers to a chemotherapy regimen that includes three drugs: fluorouracil, leucovorin calcium, and irinotecan.

When Avastin was used in clinical trials to treat different types of cancer, it was sometimes used in combination with different chemotherapy drugs. The more common side effects included:

You can also ask your doctor or pharmacist what side effects you can expect with your specific treatment.

* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.

Can Avastin cause hair loss?

Avastin doesn’t typically cause hair loss. This side effect wasn’t seen during clinical trials of the drug.

Hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Avastin isn’t a chemotherapy drug, but it’s often used in combination with chemotherapy to treat various cancers.

If you have hair loss that concerns you, talk with your doctor. They may suggest ways to help manage it.

What are the side effects of using Avastin with Tecentriq?

In clinical trials of people who used Avastin and Tecentriq* (atezolizumab) to treat certain forms of liver cancer, the more common side effects included:

Most of these side effects are mild. But some, such as hypertension or proteinuria, may become severe or require treatment.

For more about possible side effects of Avastin and Tecentriq treatment, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* Like Avastin, Tecentriq is a kind of immunotherapy used to treat certain cancers. See “Is Avastin a type of immunotherapy?” below to learn more.

Is Avastin a type of immunotherapy?

Yes, Avastin is a type of immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy is a broad category of cancer medications. These drugs enhance your immune system’s ability to recognize and fight cancer cells.

Avastin is specifically known as an anti-angiogenic drug. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels. Blood vessels carry blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the body. Avastin stops tumors from creating new blood vessels, which helps prevent blood from reaching the tumors. This helps slow the tumors’ growth.

If you have additional questions about Avastin and immunotherapy, talk with your doctor.

Learn more about some of the side effects that Avastin may cause.

Headache

Headache is a more common side effect of Avastin. For most people, this side effect is mild or temporary. Some people who used Avastin in clinical trials developed severe headache, but this is less common.

In rare cases, headache can be a symptom of serious side effects that can occur with Avastin. These can include serious infusion reactions* and posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (PRES). PRES is a condition caused by brain swelling.

* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect specifics” section below.

What you can do

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), can help ease mild headaches. You can also try resting in a dark, quiet room. Some people use a cold compress or massage the painful area of their head.

If your headaches become severe or don’t go away during Avastin treatment, talk with your doctor. They may want to check you for other symptoms of rare but serious side effects.

Joint pain

Joint pain is a possible side effect of Avastin use. This side effect could make walking or moving around more painful than usual.

In clinical trials, joint pain was more common in people who used Avastin in combination with chemotherapy. Some chemotherapy drugs used with Avastin included carboplatin, Abraxane (paclitaxel), and Infugem (gemcitabine).

What you can do

Cold and hot therapy can ease joint pain. Cold therapy, such as an ice pack, may be helpful if your joints are also swollen. Heat treatments can include a moist heating pad or a warm bath. Over-the-counter capsaicin cream and heat patches are other options for providing warmth.

Low-impact exercise, such as swimming or cycling, can help keep your joints flexible. If you have joint pain along with overweight or obesity, reaching a moderate weight may reduce stress on your joints.

Talk with your doctor if joint pain bothers you or becomes severe. They may recommend physical therapy, pain medications, or other ways to manage joint pain.

Bleeding

Bleeding is a possible side effect of Avastin. Bleeding from Avastin is typically minor, such as nosebleeds. Mild nosebleeds were the most common side effect seen in the drug’s clinical trials. Other minor types of bleeding can include gum or rectal bleeding.

In rare cases, severe and fatal bleeding has been reported with Avastin use. Symptoms of serious bleeding may include:

  • unusual bleeding from your gums
  • coughing up blood
  • black or bloody vomit
  • heavy rectal bleeding
  • stool that’s bright red to maroon in color
  • heavy vaginal bleeding

What you can do

If you’re having nosebleeds as a side effect of Avastin, it may help to keep your nasal passages moist. You can do this by using a saline nasal gel or spray and placing a cool mist humidifier in your bedroom.

If you develop any symptoms of heavy bleeding, you should seek medical care right away.

Menstrual cycle changes

It’s possible that using Avastin can cause changes in the menstrual cycle. The drug can affect your fertility (ability to become pregnant).

Avastin may cause changes in your ovaries. This damage can cause your ovaries to pause or stop making hormones. Without these hormones, your menstrual cycle may become irregular or stop permanently. Early menopause occurs when periods are missed for 12 months in a row. Early menopause can cause other symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes.

Early menopause was a rare side effect in clinical trials in which Avastin was used alone. It was more common when Avastin was used with chemotherapy. Sometimes, menstrual cycles returned after Avastin treatment was stopped.

What you can do

If you plan to become pregnant in the future, it’s important to talk with your doctor before using Avastin. They can discuss your options with you, such as freezing eggs or embryos.

Serious infusion reactions

Severe infusion reactions have occurred in some people receiving Avastin treatment. Avastin is given as an IV infusion, which is an injection into a vein over time. Infusion reactions are side effects that occur during or shortly after Avastin is infused into your body.

Symptoms can include:

What you can do

A healthcare professional will give your first Avastin infusions slowly, over at least 60 or 90 minutes. They’ll monitor you throughout the infusion to watch for reactions.

If you develop symptoms of a reaction, tell them right away. Depending on how mild to severe your symptoms are, they’ll likely slow, pause, or stop the Avastin treatment.

Allergic reaction

As with most drugs, Avastin can cause an allergic reaction in some people. But it’s not clear whether this side effect occurred in clinical trials.

Symptoms can be mild or serious and can include:

  • skin rash
  • itching
  • flushing
  • swelling under your skin, typically in your lips, eyelids, feet, or hands
  • swelling of your mouth, tongue, or throat, which can make it hard to breathe

What you can do

For mild symptoms of an allergic reaction, talk with your doctor right away. They may recommend ways to ease your symptoms and determine whether you should keep using Avastin. But if your symptoms are serious and you think you’re having a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your health history before you use Avastin. This drug may not be the right treatment for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. The conditions and factors to consider include:

Surgery and wound-healing problems. Avastin can increase the risk of rare but serious wound-healing problems after surgery, such as necrotizing fasciitis (commonly called flesh-eating bacteria). Due to this risk, make sure to tell your doctor about any recent or upcoming surgeries before you start Avastin treatment. They’ll likely recommend that you not use Avastin for 28 days before or after any surgery, and until after your surgical wounds are fully healed.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Avastin or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Avastin. Ask your doctor what other medications may be better options for you.

Alcohol use with Avastin

It isn’t known if it’s safe to drink alcohol during Avastin treatment. But alcohol can interact with some chemotherapy drugs that are often prescribed in combination with Avastin.

Talk with your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to drink alcohol while using Avastin.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding while using Avastin

Avastin is not safe to use during pregnancy.

It’s not known if Avastin is safe to use while breastfeeding.

If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk with your doctor. You should also talk with them if you’re breastfeeding or thinking about it. They can discuss treatment options with you.

Mild side effects can occur with Avastin use. They may be temporary, but if they don’t go away, bother you, or become severe, talk with your doctor. You should talk with them right away if you develop serious side effects while using the medication.

If you’d like to learn more about Avastin, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about side effects of using the drug.

Besides talking with your doctor, you can do some research on your own. These articles might help:

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.