Xgeva, also known as denosumab, is an injectable medication (injected once a month subcutaneously under the skin in the doctor’s office) that is used to prevent bone fractures and spinal cord compression caused by bone metastases in breast and prostate cancer survivors.
Solid tumors in the bone, which is a common site for individuals with breast and prostate cancer, can cause significant complications. Potential complications of these tumors include bone fractures and spinal cord compression that could lead to the need for radiation treatment or surgery to the involved bones as well as possible paralysis. Xgeva is used to prevent these complications.
Like every other drug Xgeva not only might provide the positive effects listed above, it also has the potential of causing significant negative side effects. The most common of these side effects include:
- Having shortness of breath (the most commonly reported side effect).
- Developing severe jaw bone complications (osteonecrosis or ONJ).
- Unusual and severe thigh bone fractures.
- Feeling tired and or weak.
- Low phosphate blood levels.
- Feelings of nausea.
If you do experience these, or other side effects from Xgeva you should tell your doctor and also report them to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch.
To help avoid the risk of developing the jaw complications you should:
- Beef up your oral care. Pay attention to both your teeth as well as your gums.
- Have regular dental visits.
- Make sure that your dentist knows that you are taking Xgeva.
- Make sure that the dentist knows if you are planning to have any type of dental surgery or tooth extractions.
Make sure that you report to your doctor the following issues:
- If you are or have taken a drug called Prolia (denosumab) because Xgeva contains the same medication.
- Have any of the symptoms of low blood calcium that include muscle stiffness; twitches; cramps; stiffness; numbness or tingling in your fingers, feet or around your mouth.
- Have pain or numbness in your jaw.
- Experience slow healing from any dental or mouth sores or surgery.
- For any woman (breast cancer survivor) if you become pregnant or even think you might have become pregnant.
- For any man, who impregnates a woman, while on Xgeva, a small amount of the drug can be carried in the semen and might affect the fetus.
Of course, if you are allergic to denosumab or any of the other ingredients in Xgeva you should not take the medication. You should immediately proceed to the emergency room if you experience any allergic type symptoms like:
- Swelling of the face, lip,s or tongue
- Low blood pressure
- Trouble breathing
Xgeva has its place in the treatment of men with prostate cancer. It helps delay the development of bone issues, but like any other drug we take it too comes with the potential of side effects that are serious.