Interferon treatments

Posted By
6/28/2011 1:41am
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Replies: 7

Hi All,

Question about Interferon....The first month of high it in the hospital or do you go to the hospital everyday?

Do they give you a port immediately or just for the at home 11 months?  Do you have to have a port? 

Still deciding if this is the right treatment for me and if I'm going to be hospitalized for a month I'm not sure I can do that.

I still have more tests to do, PET Scan, Brain MRI, and LDH Levels tested.  Still haven't seen an oncologist but that's all happening this week and next so Interferon may not even be needed or a good treatment. 

Anyone having headaches from just stress or anxiety?  This is not cool!!  Of course my mind is messing with me and I'm thinking crazy brain tumors have invaded my head!!  I just want the tests ASAP to put my mind at ease!!  I saw someone got xanax for anxiety!  That sounds really good about now!  As well as some strong pain killers!! 

Thanks for all your help!


Cancer Cannot cripple love, silence courage, destroy friendship, shatter hope or conquer the spirit.

ockelly - (6/28/2011 - 2:28am)


Interferon treatment starts with 20 doses of IV infusion given 5x/week for 4 weeks.  It is administered at an outpatient infusion clinic.  It takes a few hours and is usually scheduled in the early afternoon so you can go home, eat and go to bed.  The remaining 11 months the medication is given as a subcutaneous injection 3x/week by a family member or self administered.

No port is needed.  Some patients opt for a port if they are a difficult IV start or can't tolerate the IV starts. A peripheral IV is very manageable. There would be 2 IV starts per week.. in Monday out Wednesday, in Thursday out Friday. No IV for the weekend and only 3 nights per week where you go home with a saline lock in your arm.

Sounds like you need to gather a lot of info before you know what you're up against.  Good luck and yes  you may need an anti-anxiety medication if you are not sleeping, unable to concentrate, etc.  Ativan is immediately effective, some other like Paxil take up to 6 weeks to work.  Talk to your onc.

Breathe....      Kelly

Carmon in NM - (6/28/2011 - 9:00am)

Hi Denise - I took xanax for about the first six months after being diagnosed and there is no shame in asking for  it! I have some PTSD history and being diagnosed Stage 3B triggered everything. I couldn't sleep, couldn't think, could barely leave the house.

Xanax got me through those first really rough months until I knew what I was facing and what my treatment would be and then I tapered back off of it. I also took an antidepressant for the first year to help me manage anxiety.

I didn't do interferon so I can't help you with any of your other questions. Just remember that emotional stress isn't good for anyone and you are in one of the most stressful places I know of so do what you need to do to take care of yoursefl!

Carmon in NM: Stage IIIB 9/2008; Stage IV 6/2010 with brain and adrenal mets; NED since 4/13/2011.
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. ~ Epictetus

Becky - (6/28/2011 - 11:22am)

Also be aware that interferon can cause...or trigger..depression in some people. Some doctors suggest an antidepressant as soon as you start treatment. There are some that can also help with anxiety. My son didn't want to do that but he did take something to help him sleep.

As for myself, I asked for Xanax to help with anxiety of dealing with my sons diagnosis! Didn't take it often but it helped to know it was there if I needed it.
Good luck

MichaelFL - (6/28/2011 - 12:22pm)

Hi Denise,

As others have pointed out, it would be a good idea to start a anti depression drug before beginning interferon. I can't speak from experience, but from much reading and research, be aware that side effects vary from person to person. My brother in law took it about four years ago for the entire year and his symptoms were mainly fatigue and depression.

I guess what I am saying is, that if you choose to go this route-you can do this!

Here is some of the information I have gathered over the last three years that may assist you:

Some of the side-effects may include flu like symptoms, fevers, fatigue, chills, muscle pains, depression, nausea and mood disturbance. Many of these side-effects can be controlled or managed, so it may be a good idea to discuss these side effects with your doctor so they can receive treatment and be monitored.

You may want to keep a antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) available also as well as a heating blanket.

Also be aware that depression and anxiety drugs are not the same. Discuss this with your doctor and take whatever you feel you need to assist yourself in getting through this.

If you haven't already, you may want to look into something for depression, just in case. There are many good drugs that can be taken for depression which you may wish to start a few weeks early since they take some time to kick in.

Drugs for anti depression:

Sertraline (Zoloft)

Escitalopram (Lexapro)

Fluoxetine (Prozac)

Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Budeprion, Zyban)

Paroxetine (Paxil)

Venlafaxine (Effexor)

Citalopram (Celexa)

Trazodone (Desyrel)

Amitriptyline (Elavil)

Duloxetine (Cymbalta)

Mirtazapine (Remeron tetracyclic)

Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Imipramine (Tofranil)

Here are some drugs for anti anxiety:

Alprazolam Intensol
Inderide [CD]
Inderide LA [CD]

Lexapro ( Lexaprotm )
Lorazepam Intensol
Tranxene - SD
Tranxene T

I also checked your profile and see that you had surgery and sentinel lymph node removal done June 8,2011. I am not sure if doctors have made you aware, so I just wanted to point out that Interferon is approved for stage three melanoma up to 56 days after surgery. This is the best time to take it in hopes of the best response.

I also wanted to point out that a persons Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels will vary with age.

Many different types of cells in the body contain this enzyme. Some of the organs relatively rich in LDH are the heart, kidney, liver, and muscle. As cells die, their LDH is released and finds its way into the blood. Nearly every type of cancer, as well as many other diseases, can cause LDH levels to be elevated.

Therefore, this marker is a considered poor prognostic indicator and cannot be used to diagnose a particular type of cancer.

Good luck with your scans and LDH level checks as well.

Again, good luck,

Michael stage 1B

This information is for general patient educational & information purposes only. It should not be used for diagnosing/treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your healthcare provider.

Lauri England - (6/28/2011 - 1:41pm)

I am in my 9th month of Interferon treatments.  The fatigue and depression  are pretty bad but I take prozac and that really helps me.  I was taking it before Interferon though because it does take time to work.  I have commented a few times about my experience with Interferon if you would like to read them.  Just remember that everyone is different and reacts differently. Good luck to you.

Don't sweat the small stuff. There are bigger fish to fry!

April Hiller - (6/28/2011 - 6:44pm)

Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. As most of us know, this whole process is daunting and overwhelming. If you choose interferon, I would for sure get a port for the 30 days. I would not have wanted to be poked everyday. That prospect would have done me in. The port was not a hassle and didn't hurt at all.  I also scheduled my appointment for around 3 or 4 every day. That way I would come home, take a sleeping pill and slept through alot of the INF side effects. I too took a little happy pill out of fear that I would get depressed, but not sure I needed it. What you will need during the 30 days is lots and lots of water and sleep. It is very doable and this board will provide you with lots of information and support.

laneyb - (6/29/2011 - 4:27pm)

I just stopped my interferon after about 9 months. To answer your question about the hospital - I had a PICC line put in my upper arm and then had the first treatment in the infusion room at my cancer center. After that, a home health agency was set up to deliver my medicine and set up where I could do it at home. It really wasn't hard to do it, and the PICC line was fairly easy to maintain.

My treatment was paused twice during the high dose treatment because of liver enzymes going up and my neutrophil count crashing. But, my oncologist is pretty conservative and doesn't make up missed doses. So, after 4 weeks, I began the injections. The home health agency showed us how to do it, and we didn't have any problems. I did have to stop a couple of times to let my neutrophils come back up, but once I got "over the hump," things went pretty well. I worked every day and was fairly active on the weekends. By about the 6 month, I wasn't even having fever anymore.

I recently stopped after developing tinnitus, fatigue, and hypothyroidism. We figure I got most of the benefit of the treatment. At this point, I was just making myself sick. It's been a week off the interferon now, and I'm feeling pretty good. Things will continue to improve, I'm sure, but it's nice to be off. I didn't have problems with depression that some report. I did have some hair thinning, but it wasn't noticeable to others and may have been more related to my thyroid than the interferon. There is treatment for that called Nioxin that really helped.

Good luck with your treatment. I bet you'll do just fine!