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(BPT) - May is Oncology Nursing Month, recognizing the endless commitment, compassion and support that oncology nurses provide for their patients throughout their cancer journeys. Nurses like Linda Buck who, with nearly 15 years of experience as an oncology nurse practitioner, has dedicated her career to caring for patients with breast cancer.
“My job can be emotionally challenging at times, but I find it very fulfilling,” said Linda. “It means a lot to me to build meaningful connections with patients and positively impact their treatment experience.”
Among the reasons Linda and other oncology nurses are appreciated and honored during Oncology Nursing Month is the key role they play in helping to explain and implement a patients’ cancer treatment plan. Most notably, Linda says, it is critical for patients to understand the risk of infection while undergoing strong chemotherapy.
According to Linda, one thing many of her patients don’t realize while undergoing strong chemotherapy is that while the chemotherapy is killing cancer cells, it can also reduce the number of neutrophils, or white blood cells, which weakens the immune system.
“When patients have a very low neutrophil count, they are more susceptible to infection,” Linda explained. “As a nurse, it’s my job to do everything I can to minimize the risk of infection, including discussing the use of Neulasta® with patients.”
Neulasta® (pegfilgrastim) is a prescription medicine used to help reduce the chance of infection due to a low white blood cell count, in people with certain types of cancer (non-myeloid), who receive anti-cancer medicines (chemotherapy) that can cause fever and low blood cell count.
Important Safety Information
Who should not take Neulasta®?
Do not take Neulasta® if you have had a serious allergic reaction to Neulasta® (pegfilgrastim) or NEUPOGEN® (filgrastim).
What should I tell my health care provider before taking Neulasta®? Tell your healthcare provider if you:
Have sickle cell trait or sickle cell diseaseHave had severe skin reactions to acrylic adhesivesAre allergic to latexHave problems with your kidneysHave any other medical problemsAre pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Neulasta® may harm your unborn baby.Are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if Neulasta® passes into your breast milk.
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over the counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
“I hope that by sharing the knowledge I’ve gained over the course of my career as an oncology nurse, I can help patients both inside and outside my clinic,” said Linda.
Once the physician has determined that a patient should receive Neulasta®, Linda provides another point of support by discussing their options for delivery, including the Neulasta® Onpro®.
The Neulasta® Onpro® kit is comprised of a single dose of Neulasta® and a single-use On-body Injector. The On-body Injector (a delivery system for Neulasta®) is filled with the co-packaged Neulasta® prefilled syringe and applied to the skin (arm or abdomen) by a healthcare provider during the chemotherapy appointment – designed to allow people who are undergoing strong chemotherapy treatment for certain types of cancer to receive Neulasta® without having to return to the clinic just for their Neulasta® shot. However, patients may need to return to the office if there is a concern that they missed or received a partial dose of Neulasta®.
One of Linda’s patients, Natalie, used Neulasta® Onpro® while she received strong chemotherapy. Natalie’s physician determined that she was at risk of infection, and she returned to the clinic for a shot of Neulasta®.
“I inform patients of their options so that they can have a choice in how they receive their medication to help reduce the risk of infection,” said Linda. “For Natalie’s following doses, I recommended she consider using Neulasta® Onpro®, as it may be able to provide scheduling flexibility.”
In addition to understanding risk of infection, Linda encourages patients to be involved in their cancer treatment and to ask questions. “Not every treatment plan is appropriate for every patient,” she said. “It is important to ask your doctor and your cancer support team to determine the options that are most appropriate for you.”
For Natalie, the support from Linda and her cancer care team has been impactful.
“Oncology Nursing Month is an important event for me to celebrate as a patient,” Natalie said. “The most important aspects of my cancer journey were the relationships I built, the support network I created and, especially, the support from my medical team.”
To download a printable list of questions you can ask your doctor, click here.
Important Safety Information, continued
What are possible serious side effects of Neulasta®?
Spleen Rupture. Your spleen may become enlarged and can rupture while taking Neulasta®. A ruptured spleen can cause death. Call your doctor right away if you have pain in the left upper stomach area or left shoulder tip area. This pain could mean your spleen is enlarged or ruptured.A serious lung problem called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Call your healthcare provider or get emergency medical help right away if you get any of these symptoms of ARDS: fever, shortness of breath, trouble breathing, or a fast rate of breathing.Serious Allergic Reactions. Get emergency medical help right away if you get any of these symptoms of a serious allergic reaction with Neulasta®: shortness of breath, wheezing, dizziness, swelling around the mouth or eyes, fast pulse, sweating, and hives.
If you have an allergic reaction during the delivery of Neulasta®, remove the On-body Injector for Neulasta® by grabbing the edge of the adhesive pad and peeling off the On-body Injector. Get emergency medical help right away.
Sickle Cell Crises. Severe sickle cell crises, and sometimes death, can happen in people with sickle cell trait or disease who receive filgrastim, a medicine similar to Neulasta®.Kidney injury (glomerulonephritis). Kidney injury has been seen in patients who received Neulasta®. You should notify your healthcare provider right away if you experience puffiness in your face or ankles, blood in your urine or brown colored urine or you notice you urinate less than usual.Increased white blood cell count (leukocytosis). Your doctor will check your blood during treatment with Neulasta®.Capillary Leak Syndrome. Neulasta® can cause fluid to leak from blood vessels into your body’s tissues. This condition is called "Capillary Leak Syndrome” (CLS). CLS can quickly cause you to have symptoms that may become life-threatening. Get emergency medical help right away if you develop any of the following symptoms:swelling or puffiness and are urinating less oftentrouble breathingswelling of your stomach area (abdomen) and feeling of fullnessdizziness or feeling fainta general feeling of tiredness
The most common side effect of Neulasta® is pain in the bones and in your arms and legs.
Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away. These are not all the possible side effects of Neulasta®. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1.800.FDA.1088 (1.800.332.1088).
For more information about Neulasta®, talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist; go to www.neulasta.com, or call 1.844.696.3852 (1.844.MYNEULASTA).
Please see Neulasta® Patient Information.
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