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Cetuximab is used with or without radiation therapy to treat a certain type of cancer of the head and neck. Cetuximab is also used alone or in combination with another medication to treat a certain type of cancer of the colon (large intestine) or rectum that has spread to other parts of the body. Cetuximab has been shown to slow the growth of tumors in people who have cancer of the colon or rectum. However, it has not been shown to help people who have cancer of the colon or rectum feel better or live longer. Cetuximab is in a class of medications called monoclonal antibodies. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cancer cells.
Cetuximab comes as a solution (liquid) to be infused (injected slowly) into a vein. Cetuximab is given by a doctor or nurse in a medical office or infusion center. It is usually given once a week.
Side effects of cetuximab fall into one of two groups:
- infusion-related reactions these may occur during the infusion or for up to an hour afterwards (or rarely up to several hours later)
- other side effects that may occur days or weeks later.
- flu-like symptoms, such as headache, feeling flushed, having a fever, chills, or dizziness
- red, warm and itchy bumps on the skin (like nettle rash)
- a feeling of swelling in the lips, tongue or throat
- breathlessness, wheezing, a cough or sudden difficulty breathing
- a tight chest or chest pain.