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Carmustine (BiCNU, BCNU)

Article Translations: (Spanish)

How does this medicine work?

Carmustine (kar-muss-teen) is a chemotherapy medicine that destroys cancer cells in all phases of cell life.

How is the medicine given?

Carmustine is given into a vein (IV) as a slow infusion in the hospital or clinic.

What are the side effects?


  • low blood counts


  • severe nausea
  • severe vomiting
  • hair loss
  • metallic taste during the infusion
  • abnormal lung function


  • mouth sores
  • irritation and tenderness in vein used


  • prolonged therapy may damage the liver, lungs, kidney, and heart
  • secondary cancer
  • brain swelling
  • loss of balance

When should I call the doctor?

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • bleeding or unusual bruising
  • lower-back or side pain
  • mouth sores
  • hoarseness
  • continued vomiting
  • change in mental state
  • signs of allergic reaction:
    • sudden rash or hives
    • itching
    • wheezing
    • trouble breathing - call 911

What else do I need to know?

  • All caregivers should wear gloves when handling urine, stool, and vomit while your child is receiving the chemotherapy and for 48 hours afterward. Urine, stool, and vomit can be safely disposed of in septic tanks and the sewer system.
  • Any clothing or bed linens that are contaminated with urine, stool, or vomit should be washed separately from other laundry in hot water and detergent. Anyone handling the contaminated laundry should wear gloves.
  • Blood samples may be needed to check the effects of the medicine. Blood counts are lowest at 4 to 6 weeks after the medicine is given.
  • Periodic chest X-rays and a pulmonary function test are done to check for lung damage during therapy.
  • Good mouth care helps prevent mouth sores.
  • Skin that comes in contact with the medicine can become discolored or dark.
  • Some people may need a slower infusion rate to prevent intense skin flushing (redness and a sensation of heat).
  • You and your child should know the names of all the medicines he or she is taking. Share this information with anyone involved in your child’s care.


This is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call the oncology clinic or pharmacy.

Reviewed 10/2016

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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