What should I know before my first treatment?

About Your Treatment With KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab)

About your treatment with KEYTRUDA

KEYTRUDA is a cancer treatment that is given by a needle through a vein. This is known as an infusion. Your doctor will give you KEYTRUDA into your vein through an intravenous (IV) line. Treatments are given over 30 minutes. They can take place at your doctor’s office or an infusion clinic.

In adults, KEYTRUDA is usually given every 3 weeks or every 6 weeks depending on the dose that you are receiving. In children, KEYTRUDA is usually given every 3 weeks.

The adult dose given every 6 weeks is approved based on specific types of data showing how this dose works in the body. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.

What Should I Ask My Infusion Center?

What should I ask my infusion center?

Before your first appointment, call your infusion center and ask:

  • Can my family members or friends come?
  • Is there public transportation nearby?
  • Where is the parking lot and is parking free?
  • Will I be able to drive after my infusion?
  • What do I need to bring with me?
  • How long should I expect to be there?
How Can I Pass the Time at My Infusions?

How can I pass the time at my infusions?

Here are some ideas of what you can do while getting your infusion:

  • Chat with friends or family members
  • Play a favorite online game
  • Get lost in a book or magazine
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Watch your favorite TV show

When deciding what to bring with you, remember that your doctor may ask you to be in the office for a longer period of time than it takes to get your infusion.

What Should I Bring to My Infusion?

What should I bring to my infusion?

Items for staff members:

  • Any paperwork you need to fill out or have already filled out
  • A list of all the current medications you’re taking
  • Insurance cards

Items for your comfort:

  • A full water bottle to help you stay hydrated
  • Healthy snacks
  • A pillow and/or blanket
  • Charging devices
What Can I Do to Feel Prepared?

What can I do to feel prepared?

Before your first infusion, you may experience a lot of different emotions. That’s why preparing beforehand can be a big help to making sure you feel ready.

Prepare emotionally:

  • Be open and talk to someone about how you are feeling
  • Ask your doctor about ways to help manage worry and stress

Prepare physically:

  • Drink plenty of water the day before your infusion to help prevent dehydration, flush toxins from your body, and stay as strong as possible

Prepare with others:

  • Ask friends or family to come with you, or plan to video chat when you’re there
  • Plan ahead for rides as you may not feel up for driving afterwards
What Should I Wear?

What should I wear?

Wearing the right clothes to your infusions can help you feel more at ease during your appointment.

Be sure to dress in:

  • Comfortable clothes
  • Shirts with sleeves that can be rolled up so your nurse can put in an intravenous (IV) line or get to your port
  • Layers, in case your infusion center is too hot or cold for your liking
What Should I Expect During the Infusion?

What should I expect during the infusion?

Who will give me the infusion?

A nurse will likely give you the infusion by placing an intravenous (IV) line into your arm. They can also answer any questions you may have.

How long will the infusion take?

Each infusion of KEYTRUDA is given over 30 minutes. Remember that your doctor or the infusion center may ask you to be there for a longer period of time than it takes to get your infusion.

What should I pay attention to?

During your infusions, make sure to pay attention to how you are feeling. Sometimes bruising, irritation, or other reactions can occur. If you are in pain or feel something out of the ordinary, make sure to tell the nurse or someone at the infusion center right away.

Read About One Patient's Infusion Day

Read about one patient’s infusion day

Meet Summer, a real patient taking KEYTRUDA, and discover what her infusion day might look like.

While I’m there, I’ll sit back and relax. I try to read a book, catch up on my favorite shows, and catch up with my nurses...
What Should I Pay Attention to After the Infusion?

What should I pay attention to after the infusion?

After your infusion, it’s important to keep paying close attention and write down how you are feeling.

Remember to tell all of your doctors that you are taking KEYTRUDA. Small steps like these can help you and your doctor manage side effects early.

You've Finished the First Section

You’ve finished the first section

Hopefully you’re feeling more prepared for your first infusion. Now that you know how to prepare, what you’ll need to bring with you, and what your experience may be like, you’re ready to move onto the next section.

Move onto:

Go back to: Starting KEYTRUDA

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FDA-Approved Indications

KEYTRUDA is a prescription medicine used to treat:

  • a kind of skin cancer called melanoma.
    • It may be used when your melanoma has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced melanoma), or
    • It may be used to help prevent melanoma from coming back after it and lymph nodes that contain cancer have been removed by surgery.
  • a kind of lung cancer called non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
    • It may be used with the chemotherapy medicines pemetrexed and a platinum as your first treatment when your lung cancer has spread (advanced NSCLC) and is a type called “nonsquamousand your tumor does not have an abnormal “EGFR” or “ALK” gene.
    • It may be used with the chemotherapy medicines carboplatin and either paclitaxel or paclitaxel protein-bound as your first treatment when your lung cancer has spread (advanced NSCLC), and is a type called “squamous.”
    • It may be used alone as your first treatment when your lung cancer has not spread outside your chest (stage III) and you cannot have surgery or chemotherapy with radiation, or your NSCLC has spread to other areas of your body (advanced NSCLC), and your tumor tests positive for “PD-L1and does not have an abnormal “EGFR” or “ALK” gene.
    • It may also be used alone for advanced NSCLC if you have tried chemotherapy that contains platinum and it did not work or is no longer working and, your tumor tests positive for “PD-L1and if your tumor has an abnormal “EGFR” or “ALK” gene, you have also received an “EGFR” or “ALK” inhibitor medicine that did not work or is no longer working.
  • a kind of cancer called head and neck squamous cell cancer (HNSCC).
    • It may be used with the chemotherapy medicines fluorouracil and a platinum as your first treatment when your head and neck cancer has spread or returned and cannot be removed by surgery.
    • It may be used alone as your first treatment when your head and neck cancer has spread or returned and cannot be removed by surgery, and your tumor tests positive for “PD-L1.”
    • It may be used alone when your head and neck cancer has spread or returned, and you have received chemotherapy that contains platinum and it did not work or is no longer working.
  • a kind of cancer called classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL). It may be used
    • in adults when:
      • your cHL has returned or
      • you have tried a treatment and it did not work, or
    • in children when:
      • you have tried a treatment and it did not work, or
      • your cHL has returned after you received 2 or more types of treatment.
  • a kind of cancer called primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBCL). It may be used in adults and children when you have tried a treatment and it did not work, or your PMBCL has returned after you received 2 or more types of treatment.
  • a kind of bladder and urinary tract cancer called urothelial carcinoma.
    • It may be used when your cancer has not spread to nearby tissue in the bladder, but is at high-risk for spreading (high-risk, non-muscle invasive bladder cancer [NMIBC]) and when your tumor is a type called “carcinoma in situ” (CIS), and you have tried treatment with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) and it did not work, and you are not able to or have decided not to have surgery to remove your bladder.
    • It may be used when your bladder or urinary tract cancer has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced urothelial cancer), and you are not able to receive chemotherapy that contains a medicine called cisplatin, and your tumor tests positive for “PD-L1,” or you are not able to receive a medicine called cisplatin or carboplatin.
      This use is approved based on how many patients responded to treatment and how long they responded. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.
    • It may be used when your bladder or urinary tract cancer has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced urothelial cancer) and you have received chemotherapy that contains platinum, and it did not work or is no longer working.
  • a kind of cancer that is shown by a laboratory test to be a microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or a mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) solid tumor. It may be used in adults and children to treat:
    • cancer that has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced cancer), and
    • has progressed following treatment, and you have no satisfactory treatment options, or
    • you have colon or rectal cancer, and you have received chemotherapy with fluoropyrimidine, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan but it did not work or is no longer working.
  • This use is approved based on how many patients responded to treatment and how long they responded. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.
    It is not known if KEYTRUDA is safe and effective in children with MSI-H cancers of the brain or spinal cord (central nervous system cancers).
  • a kind of cancer called colon or rectal cancer. It may be used as your first treatment when your cancer:
    • has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced colon or rectal cancer), and
    • has been shown by a laboratory test to be microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR).
  • a kind of stomach cancer called gastric or gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) adenocarcinoma that tests positive for “PD-L1.” It may be used when your stomach cancer:
    • has returned or spread (advanced gastric cancer), and
    • you have received 2 or more types of chemotherapy including fluoropyrimidine and chemotherapy that contains platinum, and it did not work or is no longer working, and
    • if your tumor has an abnormal “HER2/neu” gene, you also received a HER2/neu‑targeted medicine and it did not work or is no longer working.
  • This use is approved based on how many patients responded to treatment and how long they responded. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.
  • a kind of cancer called esophageal or certain gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) carcinomas that cannot be cured by surgery or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
    • It may be used with platinum- and fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy medicines.
    • It may be used alone when:
      • you have received one or more types of treatment, and it did not work or it is no longer working, and
      • your tumor is a type called “squamous,” and
      • your tumor tests positive for “PD-L1.”
  • a kind of cancer called cervical cancer that tests positive for “PD-L1.” It may be used when your cervical cancer has returned or has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced cervical cancer), and you have received chemotherapy, and it did not work or is no longer working.
  • This use is approved based on how many patients responded to treatment and how long they responded. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.
  • a kind of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma. It may be used after you have received the medicine sorafenib.
  • This use is approved based on how many patients responded to treatment and how long they responded. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.
  • a kind of skin cancer called Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) in adults and children. It may be used when your cancer has spread or returned.
  • This use is approved based on how many patients responded to treatment and how long they responded. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.
  • a kind of kidney cancer called renal cell carcinoma (RCC). It may be used with the medicine axitinib as your first treatment when your kidney cancer has spread or cannot be removed by surgery (advanced RCC).
  • a kind of skin cancer called cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC). It may be used when your skin cancer has returned or spread, and cannot be cured by surgery or radiation.
  • a kind of cancer called triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). It may be used with chemotherapy medicines when your breast cancer:
    • has returned and cannot be removed by surgery or has spread, and
    • tests positive for “PD-L1.”
  • This use is approved based on the amount of time until patients’ disease got worse. Studies are ongoing to provide additional information about clinical benefit.

PD-L1 = programmed death ligand 1;
EGFR = epidermal growth factor receptor;
ALK = anaplastic lymphoma kinase;
HER2/neu = human epidermal growth factor receptor 2.

Important Safety Information

KEYTRUDA is a medicine that may treat certain cancers by working with your immune system. KEYTRUDA can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues in any area of your body and can affect the way they work. These problems can sometimes become severe or life-threatening and can lead to death. You can have more than one of these problems at the same time. These problems may happen any time during treatment or even after your treatment has ended.

Call or see your health care provider right away if you develop any signs or symptoms of the following problems or if they get worse. These are not all of the signs and symptoms of immune system problems that can happen with KEYTRUDA:

Lung problems: cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain.

Intestinal problems: diarrhea (loose stools) or more frequent bowel movements than usual; stools that are black, tarry, sticky, or have blood or mucus; or severe stomach-area (abdomen) pain or tenderness.

Liver problems: yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes; severe nausea or vomiting; pain on the right side of your stomach area (abdomen); dark urine (tea colored); or bleeding or bruising more easily than normal.

Hormone gland problems: headaches that will not go away or unusual headaches; eye sensitivity to light; eye problems; rapid heartbeat; increased sweating; extreme tiredness; weight gain or weight loss; feeling more hungry or thirsty than usual; urinating more often than usual; hair loss; feeling cold; constipation; your voice gets deeper; dizziness or fainting; changes in mood or behavior, such as decreased sex drive, irritability, or forgetfulness.

Kidney problems: decrease in the amount of your urine; blood in your urine; swelling of your ankles; loss of appetite.

Skin problems: rash; itching; skin blistering or peeling; painful sores or ulcers in your mouth or in your nose, throat, or genital area; fever or flu-like symptoms; swollen lymph nodes.

Problems can also happen in other organs and tissues. Signs and symptoms of these problems may include: chest pain; irregular heartbeat; shortness of breath; swelling of ankles; confusion; sleepiness; memory problems; changes in mood or behavior; stiff neck; balance problems; tingling or numbness of the arms or legs; double vision; blurry vision; sensitivity to light; eye pain; changes in eyesight; persistent or severe muscle pain or weakness; muscle cramps; low red blood cells; bruising.

Infusion reactions that can sometimes be severe or life-threatening. Signs and symptoms of infusion reactions may include chills or shaking, itching or rash, flushing, shortness of breath or wheezing, dizziness, feeling like passing out, fever, and back pain.

Rejection of a transplanted organ. Your health care provider should tell you what signs and symptoms you should report and they will monitor you, depending on the type of organ transplant that you have had.

Complications, including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), in people who have received a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic). These complications can be serious and can lead to death. These complications may happen if you underwent transplantation either before or after being treated with KEYTRUDA. Your health care provider will monitor you for these complications.

Getting medical treatment right away may help keep these problems from becoming more serious. Your health care provider will check you for these problems during treatment with KEYTRUDA. They may treat you with corticosteroid or hormone replacement medicines. They may also need to delay or completely stop treatment with KEYTRUDA if you have severe side effects.

Before you receive KEYTRUDA, tell your health care provider if you have immune system problems such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or lupus; have had an organ transplant or have had or plan to have a bone marrow (stem cell) transplant that uses donor stem cells (allogeneic); have had radiation treatment in your chest area; have a condition that affects your nervous system, such as myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barré syndrome.

If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, tell your health care provider. KEYTRUDA can harm your unborn baby. If you are able to become pregnant, you will be given a pregnancy test before you start treatment. Use effective birth control during treatment and for at least 4 months after your final dose of KEYTRUDA. Tell them right away if you think you may be pregnant or you become pregnant during treatment with KEYTRUDA.

Tell your health care provider if you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if KEYTRUDA passes into your breast milk. Do not breastfeed during treatment with KEYTRUDA and for 4 months after your final dose of KEYTRUDA.

Tell your health care provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when used alone include feeling tired; pain, including pain in muscles, bones or joints and stomach area (abdominal) pain; decreased appetite; itching; diarrhea; nausea; rash; fever; cough; shortness of breath; and constipation.

In children, when KEYTRUDA is used alone, fever, vomiting, upper respiratory tract infection, headache, and low levels of white blood cells and red blood cells (anemia) are more common than in adults.

Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when given with certain chemotherapy medicines include feeling tired or weak; nausea; constipation; diarrhea; decreased appetite; rash; vomiting; cough; trouble breathing; fever; hair loss; inflammation of the nerves that may cause pain, weakness, and paralysis in the arms and legs; swelling of the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, throat, intestines, or vagina; mouth sores; headache; and weight loss.

Common side effects of KEYTRUDA when given with axitinib include diarrhea; feeling tired or weak; high blood pressure; liver problems; low levels of thyroid hormone; decreased appetite; blisters or rash on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet; nausea; mouth sores or swelling of the lining of the mouth, nose, eyes, throat, intestines, or vagina; hoarseness; rash; cough; and constipation.

These are not all the possible side effects of KEYTRUDA. Talk to your health care provider for medical advice about side effects.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Please read the accompanying Medication Guide for KEYTRUDA and discuss it with your doctor. The physician Prescribing Information also is available.