Cancer Home > Imatinib Side Effects

As a chemotherapy medication, imatinib can cause significant side effects. For example, 73 to 86 percent of people taking this drug experience fluid retention, fatigue, and nausea. Although not as common, serious reactions are also possible, including allergic reactions, infections, and internal bleeding. Contact your healthcare provider right away if you develop any of these symptoms, or if something "just does not seem right."

An Introduction to Imatinib Side Effects

Just like any cancer medicine, imatinib mesylate (Gleevec®) 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 side effect during imatinib treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways you can manage some of the more bothersome reactions.
(This article covers many, but not all, of the possible side effects with imatinib. Your healthcare provider can discuss a more complete list with you.)

Serious Side Effects of Imatinib

Some side effects of imatinib are potentially serious and should be reported to your healthcare provider right away. These include but are not limited to:
  • Signs of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • An unexplained rash
    • Hives
    • Itching
    • Unexplained swelling, especially of the mouth, lips, or throat
    • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
    • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or new or worsening cough
  • Signs of liver problems, such as:
    • Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice)
    • Dark urine
    • Pain in the right upper part of the stomach
  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • Vision or speech changes, weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or a severe headache
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Black, tarry, or bloody stools
  • Vomiting blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • New or worsening stomach pain or cramping
  • Swelling in your hands, legs, ankles, or feet or a sudden weight gain
  • Severe diarrhea or diarrhea that does not go away (see Chemotherapy-Induced Diarrhea).
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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