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What is Nitrogen Mustard?

By Rolando Braza
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Nitrogen mustard is a cytotoxic or anti-cancer chemotherapy medicine that is like nitrogen gas in chemical structure. It is also used as a chemical agent in developing weapons for warfare, where it is known as bis (2-chlorethyl) ethylamine or HN-1, bis (2-chlorethyl) methylamine or HN-2, and tris (2-chlorethyl) and amine or HN-3. In medicine, nitrogen mustard refers to the generic drug called mechlorethamine.

Mechlorethamine is a drug in chemotherapy applied in the treatment of certain chronic leukemia, as well as Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. It is also used to retard the development of breast and lung cancer. It can, likewise, be applied in curing mycosis fungoides or cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

Nitrogen mustard is given as an injection using an intravenous (IV) line. A medical practitioner must exercise care in making an IV injection of the drug because it is a vesicant that can cause blisters and damage to the tissues if the drug gets out of the vein. Nitrogen mustard can also be dispensed as a solution when treating skin lesions due to mycosis fungoides. The dosage and method of dispensing the drug relies on various factors such as the patient’s general health condition, height, and weight and the type of cancer that is subject to treatment.

One of the side effects of nitrogen mustard is low blood count that can heighten the risk of anemia, bleeding, or infection. Other side effects include, among others, hair loss, nausea, and loss of fertility. Side effects are reversible in most cases and will cease upon completion of the treatment. Their start and duration are often predictable. Many choices are also available in dealing with the side effects.

The doctor must be informed by a patient about to undergo nitrogen mustard treatment about the medications he or she is currently taking. In the case of a female patient, she must let the doctor know if she is pregnant and should not allow herself to get pregnant when the treatment commences since the treatment can endanger the life of the fetus. A mother who is into nitrogen mustard therapy must not breastfeed during the course of the therapy.

A patient undergoing nitrogen mustard medication will be regularly monitored by his or her doctor to track the progress of the treatment and note side effects. The doctor would normally require a periodic blood test to verify the condition of the kidney and the liver of the patient. Check-up schedules must be religiously observed in order to sustain the effectiveness of the treatment program.

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