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Cisplatin is a chemotherapy drug used to treat testicular, ovarian, bladder, head and neck, lung and cervical cancer. 

What is cisplatin?

About cisplatin

Cisplatin is a chemotherapy drug used to treat:

It may also be used to treat other cancers.

It is best to read this information with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.

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Your doctor will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.

How cisplatin is given

You will be given cisplatin in a chemotherapy day unit or during a stay in hospital. A chemotherapy nurse will give it to you. Cisplatin can be given in combination with other cancer drugs or with radiotherapy.

During treatment you usually see a cancer doctor, a chemotherapy nurse or a specialist nurse, and a specialist pharmacist. This is who we mean when we mention doctor, nurse or pharmacist in this information.

Your nurse usually gives you anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs before the chemotherapy.

How is it done

Cisplatin is given into a vein (intravenously). The nurse will put: 

  1. a short thin tube into a vein in your arm or hand (cannula)
  2. a fine tube under the skin of your chest and into a vein close by (central line)
  3. a fine tube into a vein in your arm and through into a vein in your chest (PICC line).

Cisplatin can affect the kidneys. You will be given extra fluids through the drip before and after the cisplatin. You may also have a drug called mannitol. The fluids and mannitol can help prevent kidney damage.


Your nurse will explain how long it will take to have the extra fluids. They will also give you advice about how much fluid to drink for the next 24 hours.

Drip infusion

Your nurse will give the cisplatin as a drip (infusion) that is attached to your cannula or line. They will usually put the drip through a pump. This will give you the treatment over a set time.

Side effects

Effects on the blood stream

Blood is made up of blood cells, which float in a liquid called plasma. Each type of blood cell has an important role in the body.

Cancer cells in bloodstream

Image: Cancer cells in blood stream

Effects on the kidneys 

Cisplatin can affect how your kidneys work. You will have blood tests before and during treatment to check this.

Before and after each treatment, your nurses will give you extra fluids through a drip. This is to protect your kidneys. It is also important to drink at least 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluids each day.

If you pass less urine than usual, tell your nurse.

Blood tests

What is a blood test?

A phlebotomist, nurse or doctor will take a sample of blood, usually from a vein in your arm. This will then be tested in a laboratory.

In this video: This video is an animation of how blood cells are made


Full blood count (FBC)

Blood is made up of blood cells, which float in a liquid called plasma. Each type of blood cell has an important role in the body.

A full blood count (FBC) test measures the level of these cells:

  • Red blood cells

    Red blood cells contain haemoglobin (Hb), which carries oxygen from your lungs to all the cells in your body.

  • Platelets

    Platelets are very small cells that help blood to clot, and prevent bleeding and bruising.

  • White blood cells

    White blood cells fight and prevent infection. There are several types of white blood cell. The two most important types are neutrophils and lymphocytes.

Measuring your full blood count

The levels of these cells in your blood can be measured with a blood test called a full blood count (FBC). The figures below are a guide to the levels usually found in a healthy person.

These numbers can vary from hospital to hospital. Your doctor or nurse will tell you which levels they use. They also vary slightly between people from different ethnic backgrounds.

The numbers might look complicated when they are written down, but doctors and nurses often use them in a simple way. For example, you may hear them saying things like, ‘your haemoglobin is 140’ or ‘your neutrophils are 4’.

If you would like to know more you can always ask your medical team to explain in more detail.


 Type of cell  Levels found in a healthy person
 Red blood cells – measured in haemoglobin (Hb) levels 130-180g/l (men)
115-165g/l (women)
 Platelets 150-400 x 109/l 
 White blood cells (WBC) 4.0-11.0 x 109/l 
 Neutrophils 2.0-7.5 x 109/l 
 Lymphocytes 1.5-4.5 x 109/l 


Resources to help

You can download our Understanding kidney cancer leaflet [PDF]

Or click on the image below to download it.

Case study

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Ravinder, diagnosed with breast cancer 2013.