If you have cancer, your doctor may prescribe Avastin for you.
It’s a prescription drug that’s used treat the following types of cancer in adults, in certain situations:
- lung cancer
- liver cancer
- kidney cancer
- colorectal cancer
- cervical cancer
- brain cancer
- cancers of the peritoneum, fallopian tubes, or ovaries
Avastin comes as a liquid solution that’s given as an intravenous (IV) infusion (an injection into your vein given over time). You’ll receive Avastin infusions from a healthcare professional, likely at a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic. You won’t give yourself injections of the drug.
Avastin and its biosimilars, including Mvasi
Avastin contains the drug bevacizumab, which is a biologic drug. A biologic is made from parts of living cells.
Avastin is available in biosimilar forms called Mvasi and Zirabev. (Biosimilar drugs are like generic drugs. But unlike generics, which are made for nonbiologic drugs, biosimilars are made for biologic drugs.)
Read on to learn about Avastin’s side effects, uses, and more.
Like most drugs, Avastin may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Avastin may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that the side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Avastin. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that Avastin can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, check out this article, or read Avastin’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of Avastin that have been reported include:
- back pain
- dry skin
- fatigue (low energy)
- impaired taste
- joint pain or muscle pain
- loss of appetite
- low magnesium level
- rhinitis (swelling of the lining inside your nose), which can cause stuffy or runny nose
- watery eyes
- weight loss
- mild high blood pressure*
- minor bleeding, including nosebleeds*
- mild skin rash*
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Avastin can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Avastin, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Avastin that have been reported include:
- blood clots, which may lead to serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack
- early menopause
- heart failure
- high blood sugar
- infusion reactions, such as wheezing, chest pain, and sweating
- protein in the urine, which could be a sign of kidney problems
- a perforation (hole) or abnormal opening in your stomach or intestines
- posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome (a condition caused by brain swelling)
- problems with the healing of surgical wounds (incisions or cuts made during surgery)
- severe high blood pressure,* which may cause blurry vision
- severe bleeding*
- severe skin rash*
- allergic reaction*
* For more information about this side effect, see the “Side effect focus” section below.
Side effect focus
Learn more about some of the side effects Avastin may cause.
High blood pressure
With Avastin, you may have high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension. This was a common side effect in studies of the drug. But in rare cases, Avastin may cause severe high blood pressure.
High blood pressure doesn’t typically cause symptoms unless it’s severe. Symptoms of severe high blood pressure can include:
- blurry vision
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
- chest pain
What might help
Your doctor may check your blood pressure from time to time while you’re receiving Avastin. They may also suggest you check your blood pressure often using a home monitor.
If you have high blood pressure during Avastin treatment, your doctor will likely have you stop receiving the drug temporarily. Once your blood pressure is managed, they may have you start Avastin treatment again. Or they may prescribe a different drug that doesn’t affect your blood pressure.
If you have symptoms of severe high blood pressure while receiving Avastin, tell your doctor right away. But if your symptoms seem life threatening, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Bleeding, including nosebleeds
You may have bleeding with Avastin. Minor bleeding, such as having nosebleeds, was common in studies of the drug. But in rare cases, Avastin may cause severe bleeding, such as internal bleeding in your digestive tract or chest.
Symptoms of severe bleeding can include:
- weakness or dizziness
- pain in your belly
- blood in your stool or urine
- low blood pressure
- vomiting or coughing up blood
What might help
Before you start Avastin treatment, your doctor will check you for signs of bleeding. Be sure to tell them if you’ve recently coughed up blood. In this case, your doctor may prescribe a treatment other than Avastin for your cancer.
Tell your doctor if you have any unusual bleeding while receiving Avastin. If you have symptoms of severe bleeding, tell them right away. But you should call 911 or your local emergency number if your symptoms feel life threatening.
If you have severe bleeding during Avastin treatment, it’s likely your doctor will have you stop receiving the drug. And they may prescribe a different drug for you instead.
You may develop a skin rash with Avastin. Mild rash was a somewhat common side effect in studies of the drug. But a more serious type of rash called exfoliative dermatitis was reported more frequently.
In addition to rash, you may have the following symptoms with exfoliative dermatitis:
- skin swelling or irritation
- reddened, darkened, or discolored skin
- peeling skin
- pain in the affected area
- itchy skin
What might help
If you have a mild rash during Avastin treatment, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can suggest ways to ease this side effect.
But tell your doctor right away if you have symptoms of exfoliative dermatitis with Avastin. They may need to treat your condition in a hospital.
Keep in mind that rash can also be a symptom of an allergic reaction to Avastin. For details, see “Allergic reaction” right below.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, typically in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Avastin. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Avastin.
Is Avastin a chemotherapy or immunotherapy drug?
Chemotherapy is a type of treatment that kills cancer cells completely or keeps them from making more cancer cells.
Immunotherapy is a treatment that works with your immune system to fight cancer. Avastin works with your immune system to block a specific protein in cancer cells. (To learn more, see “How does Avastin work? What’s its half-life?” below.)
For certain cancers, Avastin may be used together with chemotherapy. For details, see the “Is Avastin used for other conditions?” section below.
What’s the life expectancy with Avastin treatment?
Life expectancy with Avastin can depend on many factors, including the kind of cancer you’re using it to treat.
Studies have found Avastin effective for treating many types of cancer. These are described in the “Is Avastin used for glioblastoma?” and “Is Avastin used for other conditions?” sections below. For details on how the drug performed in studies, see Avastin’s prescribing information.
Keep in mind that your results with Avastin may not be the same as those seen in studies. If you have questions about life expectancy while you’re receiving Avastin, talk with your doctor.
How does Avastin work? What’s its half-life?
Avastin is an immunotherapy drug. Immunotherapy is a treatment that works with your immune system to fight cancer.
Avastin works* with your immune system to block a specific protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF is found naturally in many cells throughout your body. But VEGF is also found in cancer cells.
VEGF helps cancer cells make new blood vessels. Blood vessels deliver blood to the cancer cells, providing them with oxygen and nutrients. This helps cancer cells stay alive and spread to other areas of the body.
By blocking VEGF, Avastin helps cut off the blood supply to cancer cells, which keeps the cells from growing.
The half-life of Avastin is about 20 days. A drug’s half-life is the amount of time it takes your body to rid itself of half of a drug’s dose. In other words, it takes about 20 days for your body to get rid of half of a dose of Avastin.
If you have other questions about how Avastin works or its half-life, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* The way a drug works in your body is called its mechanism of action.
Is Avastin used for macular degeneration? If so, what’s the dosage?
Avastin isn’t currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat macular degeneration. But the drug may be used off-label for this purpose. (Using a drug off-label means using it for conditions other than those it’s approved by the FDA to treat.)
Macular degeneration is an eye condition. It’s typically caused by damage to the macula, which is part of your retina. (This is the tissue that lines the back part of your eye’s inside.)
Symptoms of macular degeneration include blurry vision and vision loss.
If you’re interested in using Avastin to treat macular degeneration, talk with your doctor. They’ll explain how Avastin may be used for this purpose. And your doctor will advise on the dosage of Avastin that’s right for treating your condition.
Does Avastin treat breast cancer, radiation necrosis, or diabetic neuropathy?
Avastin isn’t currently approved by the FDA to treat breast cancer, radiation necrosis, or diabetic retinopathy. But the drug may be used off-label for these purposes. (Using a drug off-label means using it for conditions other than those it’s approved by the FDA to treat.)
Radiation necrosis is a rare side effect of radiation therapy (a type of cancer treatment). It happens when tissue dies around the area of cancer that received radiation treatment.
Talk with your doctor if you’d like to use Avastin to treat breast cancer, radiation necrosis, or diabetic retinopathy. They’ll recommend the best treatment for your condition.
Will Avastin cause hair loss?
But keep in mind that Avastin may be used together with chemotherapy to treat certain cancers. And hair loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy drugs. So you may have hair loss if you receive Avastin together with chemotherapy. But this side effect probably isn’t caused by Avastin itself.
If you’re concerned about hair loss during Avastin treatment, talk with your doctor. They can discuss your risk of this side effect. And if you have hair loss, your doctor can suggest ways to manage it.
Prescription drug costs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use.
Avastin is a biologic drug, which is a drug made from parts of living cells. It’s available in biosimilar* forms called Mvasi and Zirabev. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know about using either of these biosimilars.
If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also visit the Avastin manufacturer’s website to see if they have support options.
In addition, check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.
* Biosimilar drugs are like generic drugs. But unlike generics, which are made for nonbiologic drugs, biosimilars are made for biologic drugs.
Avastin is used to treat glioblastoma in adults, as well as other conditions. To learn about how it’s used for glioblastoma, keep reading. To learn about the other conditions Avastin is used to treat, see the “Is Avastin used for other conditions?” section just below.
Avastin is used to treat recurrent glioblastoma. “Recurrent” means the cancer has come back after responding to treatments in the past.
In addition to treating glioblastoma, which is described directly above, Avastin is also used for other types of cancer.
Specifically, Avastin is used to treat the following cancers in adults:
Avastin is used to treat a type of lung cancer called non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). “Non-squamous” means the cancer doesn’t affect squamous cells, which are cells that line the airways in the lungs.
For this purpose, Avastin is used together with the chemotherapy drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel (Abraxane). The NSCLC must meet one of the following criteria:
- unresectable (can’t be removed with surgery)
- locally advanced (has spread into areas of the body near the lungs)
- recurrent (has come back after responding to treatments in the past)
- metastatic (has spread to areas of the body that are far from the lungs)
For this purpose, Avastin is used together with the cancer drug atezolizumab (Tecentriq). Avastin is used for HCC that hasn’t already been treated with a drug that affects the whole body. It’s also used for HCC that either can’t be removed with surgery or has spread to areas that are far from the liver.
Avastin is used to treat renal cell carcinoma that has spread to areas that are far from the kidney. Renal cell carcinoma is a kind of kidney cancer. For this purpose, Avastin is used together with a drug called interferon alfa.
Avastin is used to treat colorectal cancer that has spread to areas that are far from the colon or rectum. Your exact treatment regimen will depend on whether you’ve received Avastin to treat your colorectal cancer in the past. For this purpose, Avastin is used with a chemotherapy regimen that includes either:
- a drug called fluorouracil, or
- a drug from the fluoropyrimidines group, such as fluorouracil, and either oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) or irinotecan
Avastin is used to treat cervical cancer. For this purpose, it’s used together with both cisplatin and paclitaxel or with both topotecan and paclitaxel. The cervical cancer needs to meet one of the following criteria:
- is persistent (continues to grow during or after treatment)
- has come back after responding to treatments in the past
- has spread to areas that are far from the cervix
Cancers of the peritoneum, fallopian tubes, or ovaries
Your exact treatment regimen will depend on several factors. These include the severity of your cancer and whether your cancer has responded in the past to treatments that are made with platinum. For these purposes, Avastin may be used alone or together with:
- both carboplatin and paclitaxel, or
- both gemcitabine (Infugem) and carboplatin, or
- either paclitaxel, liposomal doxorubicin (Doxil), or topotecan (Hycamtin)
You may wonder how Avastin compares with similar drugs, such as Eylea. Avastin and Eylea belong to the same group of drugs, but they have different approved uses.
To learn about these drugs and alternatives, such as Lucentis, check out this article. Also, talk with your doctor about which drug is recommended for your condition.
Your doctor will explain how Avastin will be administered to you. They’ll also explain how often Avastin will be given and how much you’ll receive each time.
Avastin comes as a liquid solution that’s given as an intravenous (IV) infusion (an injection into your vein given over time). You’ll receive Avastin infusions from a healthcare professional, likely at a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic. You won’t give yourself doses of Avastin.
For details about what to expect with Avastin infusions, talk with your doctor. You can also visit the drug manufacturer’s website.
Questions for your doctor
You may have questions about Avastin and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.
Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:
- Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
- How will Avastin affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
- Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
- If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.
Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Avastin that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but the dosage you receive will be determined by your doctor.
Form and strengths
Avastin comes as a liquid solution that’s given as an infusion into a vein. You’ll receive Avastin infusions from a healthcare professional, likely at a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic. You won’t give yourself injections of the drug.
Avastin is available in one strength: 25 milligrams per milliliter (mg/mL) of solution.
Your exact dosage of Avastin depends on the condition you’re using the drug to treat. It also depends on your body weight.
You’ll likely receive an infusion of Avastin once every 2 or 3 weeks. Your doctor will explain how many doses of Avastin you’ll receive and how long the treatment will likely last.
Questions about Avastin’s dosage
Below are answers to a few questions about Avastin’s dosages.
- What if I miss a dose of Avastin? If you miss an appointment to get your Avastin infusion, call your doctor right away to reschedule. They’ll advise you on how to adjust your dosing schedule.
- Will I need to use Avastin long term? What is the drug’s treatment length? The length of time you’ll receive Avastin depends on the condition you’re using the drug to treat. It also depends on how well your cancer is responding to Avastin and any side effects you may have. Talk with your doctor about the length of time you’re likely to use Avastin.
- How long does Avastin take to work? Avastin starts working right away to treat your cancer. It might take several doses of Avastin before the amount of cancer in your body decreases. Your doctor will give you tests to make sure Avastin is working for you.
When considering treatment with Avastin, there are a few things you may want to discuss with your doctor. These include:
- any medications you take
- any medical conditions you have
- your overall health
These factors and others are discussed below in more detail.
Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.
Before receiving Avastin, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter types. Also, describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause with Avastin.
Interactions with drugs or supplements
Avastin isn’t known to interact with any other drugs or supplements. But this doesn’t mean interactions can’t happen with Avastin. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about possible interactions that may occur with use of the drug.
Avastin may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Talk with your doctor about your health history before you receive Avastin. Factors to consider include those in the list below:
- Diabetes. Avastin may cause blood clots, which can lead to serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. People who have diabetes may have a higher risk of this side effect. Before starting Avastin treatment, tell your doctor if you have diabetes. Your doctor will advise if it’s safe for you to receive Avastin.
- Previous stroke or heart attack. Avastin may cause blood clots, which can lead to serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. If you’ve had a stroke or heart attack in the past, you may have a higher risk of this side effect. Before starting treatment with Avastin, tell your doctor if you’ve had these conditions. They’ll discuss with you whether Avastin is right for you.
- Uncontrolled high blood pressure. Avastin can cause high blood pressure. (For details, see the “What are Avastin’s side effects?” section above.) Before receiving Avastin, tell your doctor if you already have high blood pressure that isn’t managed. It may not be safe for you to use Avastin because the drug can increase your blood pressure even more. Before you start Avastin treatment, your doctor may give you treatments that lower your blood pressure. Or they may prescribe a different medication for you.
- 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 are better options for you.
- Planned surgery. It’s best to avoid receiving Avastin within 28 days of a planned surgery. This is because Avastin can cause problems with the healing of surgical wounds. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a surgery planned. They’ll likely recommend you stop Avastin treatment for at least 28 days before the surgery and 28 days after it.
- Ages 65 years or older. Avastin may cause blood clots, which can lead to serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. You may have a higher risk of this side effect if you’re ages 65 years or older. Your doctor can let you know if it’s safe for you to use Avastin.
Avastin and alcohol
There aren’t any known interactions between alcohol and Avastin.
If you drink alcohol, talk with your doctor about the amount that’s safe for you to drink while during Avastin treatment.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
You shouldn’t receive Avastin while pregnant or breastfeeding.
If you’re able to become pregnant, your doctor will likely give you a pregnancy test before you start treatment. And they’ll recommend that you use birth control during treatment and for at least 6 months afterward.
You should also avoid breastfeeding for at least 6 months after your last dose of Avastin.
To learn more about the effects of Avastin when used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, talk with your doctor.
If you have questions about Avastin treatment for certain cancers, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can tell you about this drug and other treatments that may be helpful for your condition.
Below are a few articles that contain helpful information about other treatments:
- What Is Glioblastoma?
- Colorectal Cancer: Get the Facts
- Your Comfort Checklist and Tips for In-Person Lung Cancer Treatments
- Cervical Cancer Treatments
- Ovarian Cancer Treatment Options
- The Latest on Liver Cancer Treatments and Research
To learn more about the side effects of Avastin, check out this article.
Here are a few questions to ask your doctor about Avastin:
- Can I receive my Avastin dose if I have an upcoming surgery?
- How long can you use Avastin for brain cancer?
- Will Avastin cure my cancer?
Should I have someone else drive me to and from my appointments to receive Avastin infusions?Anonymous
It may be best to avoid driving until you know how Avastin infusions affect you.
For example, fatigue (low energy) is a common side effect of Avastin infusions. If you have fatigue, it may not be safe for you to drive.
It’s generally recommended that you have someone drive you to and from your first infusion until you find out how your body responds to the drug.
You may find that Avastin doesn’t cause fatigue or other bothersome side effects for you. In this case, it may be safe to drive yourself to and from your infusion appointments.Elizabeth Scheffel, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Disclaimer: Healthline 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.