Steroids for ALL
Steroids (also known as corticosteroids) are made naturally in the body, but they can also be produced artificially and used as drugs.
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Steroids are often given with chemotherapy to help destroy leukaemia cells or to reduce allergic reactions to some chemotherapy drugs.
The most commonly used steroids for ALL include prednisolone and dexamethasone. Steroids are usually given as tablets. They are often taken for a few weeks, but sometimes need to be taken for months.
Side effects of steroids
The side effects of steroids may include:
- difficulty sleeping
- mood changes
- high blood glucose levels.
You may also experience increased appetite, weight gain, high blood pressure and muscle weakness, as well as fluid retention that can cause puffy eyelids, face, hands, fingers and feet, and may blur your vision. If used for a long period, steroids may cause diabetes and contribute to thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).
Taking steroids in the morning with food or milk can reduce the risk of sleeplessness at night and stomach irritation. Tell your treatment team if you experience heartburn, as it can be relieved with medicines.
Some types of steroids can affect blood sugar levels, so people with diabetes need to monitor their blood sugars more often and may need to have their diabetes medicines adjusted. Discuss these changes with your treatment team and GP. You can also call the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) Helpline on 1800 637 700.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Dr Jonathan Sillar, Haematologist, Calvary Mater Newcastle Hospital; Dr Scott Dunkley, Haematologist, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and Chris O’Brien Lifehouse; Sharon Frazer, Consumer; Dr Robin Gasiorowski, Staff Specialist, Haematology, Concord Hospital; Prof Angela Hong, Radiation Oncologist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Clinical Professor, The University of Sydney; Yvonne King, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Heather Mackay, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Haematology, Westmead Hospital; Katelin Mayer, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Outreach Team, Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
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