Lung Cancer Home > Tarceva Side Effects

Cancer medications such as Tarceva are associated with significant side effects. For example, many people taking this drug experience a rash, fatigue, or diarrhea. Although not as common, serious problems may also occur, including breathing problems, peeling skin, irregular heartbeat, or decreased urination. If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider right away.

An Introduction to Tarceva Side Effects

Just like any cancer medicine, Tarceva® (erlotinib) can cause side effects, some of which can be significant. Although not everyone who takes the medication will have problems, most people will experience some type of reaction during treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage any side effects you may experience.
 
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with Tarceva. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)
 

Common Side Effects With Tarceva

Tarceva has been studied extensively in clinical trials. In these studies, the side effects that occurred in a group of people taking the drug were carefully documented and compared to those that occurred in a group of people taking a placebo (a "sugar pill" with no active ingredients). As a result, it was possible to see what side effects occurred, how often they appeared, and how they compared to the placebo.
 
In these studies, the most common Tarceva side effects included:
 
  • Rash -- in up to 75 percent of people
  • Fatigue -- up to 73 percent
  • Nausea -- up to 60 percent
  • Diarrhea -- up to 54 percent
  • Loss of appetite -- up to 52 percent
  • Abdominal pain (stomach pain) -- up to 46 percent
  • Vomiting -- up to 42 percent
  • Shortness of breath -- up to 41 percent
  • Weight loss -- up to 39 percent
  • Infection -- up to 39 percent
  • Body swelling (edema) -- up to 37 percent.
  •  
Other common reactions, occurring in 3.9 to 36 percent of people, included:
 
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Constipation
  • Bone pain
  • Mouth pain, sores, and inflammation
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Depression
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Hair loss
  • Itching
  • Anxiety
  • Pricking, tingling, or numbing sensations of the skin
  • Gas
  • Uncontrollable shaking with a high fever
  • Infection of the lining of the eyelids (conjunctivitis)
  • Dry eyes
  • Acne
  • Other skin reactions, such as redness, dry skin, and inflammation
  • Infection around the nails, which may cause redness, pain, and swelling around the nails.
  •  
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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