Carmustine is an alkylating agent that is used in the treatment of certain types of cancer to interfere with the growth of cancerous cells.


Carmustine is a chemotherapy treatment of the group alkylating agents. It interferes with the growth of cancerous cells in the body, which will eventually be destroyed. This treatment cannot distinguish between healthy cells and cancerous cells, so unwanted side effects will occur with the use of this medication.

Some of these side effects, like hair loss, may not be serious but can cause concern for patients. Other effects can be very serious and may need to be reported to a doctor immediately.

This medication is given intravenously under the direct supervision of a doctor.

Carmustine can be used in the treatment of certain types of brain tumors including the following:

  • Glioblastoma
  • Brainstem glioma
  • Medulloblastoma
  • Astrocytoma
  • Ependymoma
  • Metastatic

Carmustine can be used to treat cancers of the lymph system including the following:

  • Hodgkin's disease
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Carmustine can also be used in the treatment of certain bone marrow cancers including the following:

  • Multiple myeloma

Before you begin treatment with this medication you should talk about the benefits of use in relation to the risks it poses and the side effects that you may experience.

Conditions treated

  • Brain tumor
  • Lymph system cancer
  • Bone marrow cancer
  • Other cancers

Type of medicine

  • Alkylating agent
  • Chemotherapy

Side Effects

This medication will cause unwanted side effects to occur in the body. These can include blood problems, loss of hair and other notable effects. It is also possible that other serious side effects may occur in the months after treatment. These can include serious medical conditions including leukemia. You should discuss all of the following side effects with your doctor and seriously consider your options before treatment.

Some of the following side effects may occur in the patient. Where they do you should contact your doctor. In some cases they may require you to seek medical attention:

Occurring more commonly:

  • Cough
  • Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site
  • Shortness of breath

Occurring less commonly:

  • Black stools with the appearance of tar
  • Blood in the urine or stools
  • Coughing accompanied by a fever
  • Fever or chills
  • Flushing of the face
  • Lower back pain accompanied by a fever
  • Painful urination accompanied by a fever
  • Pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • Sores on the mouth or lips
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Unusual bruising
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Unusual weakness

Occurring only rarely:

  • Decrease in urination
  • Swelling of the feet or lower legs

Frequency of occurrence unknown:

  • Abdominal or stomach pain, severe
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bone pain
  • Chest pain
  • Cloudy urine
  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Dark urine
  • Decreased frequency or amount of urine
  • Difficulty with swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dizziness when changing from a lying or sitting position to standing.
  • Dry mouth or feeling of dehydration
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Feeling of warmth
  • Hives appearing on the body
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased thirst
  • Itchiness
  • Loss of hunger
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the lower back or side
  • Pale skin
  • Puffiness or swollen appearance of face, neck and/or eyelids
  • Redness of the face, arms and sometimes the upper body.
  • Skin rash
  • Sore throat
  • Sweating when cold
  • Swelling of the face, fingers, or lower legs
  • Swollen glands
  • Thirstiness
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Troubled breathing
  • Troubled breathing with exertion
  • Weight gain
  • Wheezing
  • Yellow eyes or skin

Occurring less commonly:

  • Diarrhea
  • Discoloration of the skin along the injection site

Other side effects not listed herein may also occur. You should report any further side effects to your doctor who may be able to help alleviate side effects. If any of the side effects listed above become bothersome then you should ask your doctor for advice on how to alleviate them.

Delayed effects can also occur from the use of this medication. This medication acts upon the cells in your body so some effects can be delayed for months or even years after treatment. The following side effects can occur well into the future after treatment:

  • Pulmonary Toxicity

This condition occurs where the treatment damages the lungs and can be delayed for up to three years after you have been administered treatment. If you have a history of lung disease then your risk of developing pulmonary toxicity will be increased. This condition becomes more common as the dose you receive is increased. You should discuss the risks with your doctor and you should receive regular checks for this condition after treatment.

  • Blood cancer

There is an increased risk of developing blood cancers after this treatment. The risk is low in frequency, but blood cancer can develop following treatment. You should discuss this risk with your doctor before receiving treatment.


Medications used in the treatment of cancer are very aggressive and can have a wide range of side effects. It is important that you work closely with your doctor during your treatment to ensure that you are able to get the best possible treatment.

This medication will be administered by a trained healthcare professional in a hospital. All treatment should be given under the supervision of a doctor.

This medication is given on a 6-week cycle. It may be given in one go or the dose may be split across two consecutive days in other cases.

This medication may be administered alongside other medications. If you are taking other medications then you should discuss proper dosing patterns with your doctor to avoid any interference between medications.

This medication will cause vomiting and nausea that should last no longer than 4-6 hours. Even if you feel ill, it is important that you continue taking this medication.


Certain medications should not be used alongside one another. In some cases, they can react violently with each other and in other cases, they can stop other medications from working. Before taking this medication, you should discuss all medications that you are taking with your doctor to ensure there are no interactions that you need to be careful of. This will include all herbal remedies, over the counter medications, vitamin supplements and other prescription medications that you may be taking.

This medication will lower your immune system and in doing so you will be more open to infection. For that reason, you should avoid immunizations and vaccines. This is especially important with the following:

The use of Carmustine with the following is not recommended:

  • Mumps Virus Vaccine, Live
  • Measles Virus Vaccine, Live
  • Rubella Virus Vaccine, Live
  • Rotavirus Vaccine, Live
  • Varicella Virus Vaccine

The use of the following medications in addition to Carmustine is not usually recommended, but may be required in some cases. Avoid use if possible.

  • Adenovirus Vaccine
  • Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin Vaccine, Live
  • Cholera Vaccine, Live
  • Cimetidine
  • Influenza Virus Vaccine, Live
  • Poliovirus Vaccine, Live
  • Smallpox Vaccine
  • Typhoid Vaccine
  • Yellow Fever Vaccine

Medications can also have an interaction with other existing medical conditions. In some cases, this can make conditions worse and intensify the side effects of the treatment or condition. You should discuss all medical problems that you have with your doctor. This is especially important with the following conditions.

These conditions can be worsened with the use of Carmustine:

  • Anemia
  • Bone marrow problems
  • Leukopenia or neutropenia
  • Liver disease
  • Thrombocytopenia

These conditions can be worsened because Carmustine will lower the body’s ability to fight the infections:

  • Chickenpox
  • Herpes zoster
  • Infection

These conditions may be increased because the medication will be removed from the body less quickly:

  • Kidney disease

Can increase the risk of patient developing Pulmonary Toxicity:

  • Lung disease


Before using this medication, it is essential that you consider all of the risks with your doctor in relation to the benefits of use. In order to make a reasoned judgment it is important for you to consider all of the following together with your doctor:

Allergies – If you have ever suffered from an allergic reaction to any medication then it is important that you inform your doctor. It is also important to discuss any other allergies that you have including soaps, dyes, preservatives, animals, and foods.

Pediatric – The safe and effective use of this treatment in children has not been determined. Discuss with your doctor.

Geriatric – Elderly patients are more likely to have age-related problems that will require greater caution in the use of Carmustine. Consider liver, lung, kidney and cardiovascular problems seriously in relation to treatment.

Pregnancy – This medication should not be used during pregnancy and women being treated should avoid becoming pregnant during treatment. Men and women should both avoid conceiving a child during pregnancy and should use effective contraceptives during treatment. Discuss with your doctor before treatment when it may be safe to consider conceiving a child following treatment.

Breastfeeding – There are no adequate studies to determine the risk of breastfeeding while being treated with Carmustine. You should discuss the risks with your doctor and weigh them against the benefits.

It is important that you have regular visits to your doctor when taking Carmustine. Blood and urine samples will need to be taken to ensure that the medicine is working properly and to check for the occurrence of unwanted side effects.

Use while pregnant will harm the unborn fetus. Use when pregnant should be avoided and you should use adequate protection to prevent pregnancy during treatment.

Men should avoid conceiving a child during treatment.

This medication can increase the risks of developing lung cancer. This risk increases as the medication is used in higher doses and for longer periods.

This medication will lower your immune system and can expose you to risks of infection. You should not receive any immunizations or vaccines without first discussing them with your doctor. Vaccines may not work and you may become infected with the condition you are trying to protect yourself against. You should also avoid contact with people who have received live vaccines recently. Discuss this with your family and inform those in your household about the cautions that need to be taken.

Carmustine will lower the number of blood cells in your body and lower your immune system. It will also prevent the blood from clotting as effectively making bleeding harder to stop. You should take certain precautions to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:

  • Avoid people with infections. If you must be exposed to them then consider wearing a face mask.
  • Inform your doctor if you start to show any signs of a cough or cold.
  • Inform your doctor immediately if you notice a darkening of stools, blood in your urine or stools, bleeding, bruising or red spots on your skin.
  • Talk to your doctor about how you can clean your teeth without using a toothbrush, toothpick or floss. These tools can cut your gums and cause infection and bleeding.
  • Do not touch eyes or the inside of your nose without thoroughly cleaning your hands first.
  • Be especially cautious when using sharp objects like knives and razors.
  • Avoid contact sports and other activities that put you at risk of injury.

Inform the doctor immediately if you notice pain, redness or swelling at the injection site during treatment. Carmustine can cause a range of problems if it seeps into the tissue instead of into the vein.


Store unopened vials between 2° to 8°C.

Reconstituted medications can be stored at the same temperature for up to 24 hours.


Carmustine is a chemotherapy treatment that works by attacking cancerous cells in the body to prevent them from reproducing and eventually to destroy them. Carmustine will also attack healthy cells in the body, so it will cause side effects that can cause concern and that can have ongoing effects for the patient.

The side effects of this medication can be very serious and can occur months to years after the treatment is received. You should be very clear to discuss all the possible side effects that you may experience with your doctor before taking this treatment.

This medication will increase the risks of the patient developing pulmonary toxicity and blood cancer in the future. These effects can occur months or years after treatment. Patients will need to continue to have regular check-ups with the doctor for a significant period after this treatment has ended to ensure that the patient remains healthy.

Carmustine can be used in the treatment of a range of cancers including brain tumors, cancers of the lymph system and bone marrow cancers.

This medication is administered under a doctor’s supervision and in a hospital only. The patient will receive a dose intravenously over a period of several hours. The treatment is given on a 6-week cycle and doses may be split over two consecutive days.

Patients, both male and female, receiving this medication should avoid conception of a child during treatment. This medication can harm the development of a fetus. Before taking this treatment you should discuss any desire to have children in the future with your doctor along with a discussion about effective contraception during treatment.

Hair loss will occur with this treatment. In most cases, hair growth will return to normal once the treatment has been completed. If you have any concerns about this then you should discuss this your doctor before beginning treatment.

Last Reviewed:
December 22, 2017
Last Updated:
December 22, 2017