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. 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.
The side effects of steroids may include:
- difficulty sleeping
- mood changes
- high blood glucose levels.
If you need to take steroids for several months, these side effects may be stronger. You may also experience increased appetite, weight gain, high blood pressure and muscle weakness, as well as fluid retention that can make your eyelids, face, hands, fingers and feet puffy and may blur your vision. If used for a long period, steroids may cause diabetes and contribute to thinning of the bones (osteoporosis).
Take steroids in the morning with food or milk. This will reduce the risk of sleeplessness at night and irritation to your stomach. Tell your treatment team if you experience heartburn, as it can be relieved with medicines. Your team can also suggest ways to improve your sleep.
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 Diabetes Australia on 1300 136 588 to talk to a diabetes educator.
A/Prof John Moore (Conjoint UNSW), Senior Staff Specialist Haematology, Department of Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Kinghorn Cancer Centre, St Vincent’s Hospital; Glynda Blomson, Consumer; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital; Sharon Frazer, Consumer; 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; Karen Maddock, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Haematology, Westmead Hospital.
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