Opdivo (Nivolumab) Side Effects, Before Taking, How to Use & More

Nivolumab is the generic name used for the brand of a drug called opdivo, and it is a targeted therapy. Targeted therapy means that only the relevant cells are focused on, and healthy cells remain untouched. It is prescribed to cancer patients – including metastatic non-small lung cancer, bladder cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, squamous cell cancer of the head and neck, colorectal cancer, classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, renal cell carcinoma, hepatocellular carcinoma and urothelial carcinoma.


When other treatment strategies fail, doctors are most likely to prescribe opdivo. It is known to increase the life of the patient and helps stop the progression of cancer. Doctors also turn to opdivo when cancer has spread to all parts of the body and cannot be treated with surgery anymore.



Common side effects include fatigue, lymphocytopenia (unusually low white blood cells), inadequate sodium level, shortness of breath, musculoskeletal pain, loss of appetite, cough, an upset stomach (diarrhea, constipation and nausea), back pain, symptoms of a cold (runny nose, cough etc), fever, hair loss, skin problems (peeling and loosening of skin), white spots in mouth or lips, red irritated eyes and weight gain.



Rare side effects are chest pain, dark urine or light-colored stools, discomfort, nervousness, sensitivity to heat, cramps, increased perspiration, watery or bloody diarrhea, yellow eyes and skin, weight loss and upper right abdominal or stomach pain.

Contact your doctor if you experience fever of 100.4 Fahrenheit or higher, any signs of allergic reactions, tightness in throat and/or chest, wheezing, unusual swelling, trouble breathing or talking, odd hoarseness, vomiting very frequently (four to five times in twenty-four hours), unable to eat or drink for the entire day, any signs of dehydration including dry mouth or dizziness, sudden shortness of breath, yellow skin or eyes, light-coloured, bloody or dark stools, unable to pass urine, quick bruising or bleeding and trouble with your thyroid or pituitary gland.



It is always essential to discuss any other types of diseases – related or unrelated to the disease in question – that you may have with your doctor. When starting opdivo, it is especially critical that you warn your doctor of any lung, liver or kidney disease. Moreover, inform your doctor if you have had a thyroid disorder, an organ transplant or an autoimmune disorder (lupus, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)

Do not take this medicine if you’re allergic to nivolumab, pregnant or planning to breastfeed. To avoid pregnancy while using this medicine, adopt birth-control measures.



Opdivo is taken through an intravenous infusion and is inoculated into a vein. The process of the injection is slow and has to last at least one hour. Commonly, it is injected once every two to four weeks.

As with any other medicine, it is highly advised to follow any guidelines that your doctor might have provided you with. He will test whether this medicine is right for you or not and decide how long the treatment lasts. He might also give you other medication to counter the hazardous side-effects of this drug. Try not to miss any appointments and make sure that your doctor is well-informed about all the symptoms that you pass through after taking this drug.

To avoid unhealthy interactions, steer clear of alcohol during your treatment.