Docetaxel (Generic Name)

Other Names: Taxotere®

About This Drug

Docetaxel is used to treat cancer. This drug is given in the vein (IV).

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Bone marrow depression. This is a decrease in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. This may raise your risk of infection, make you tired and weak (fatigue), and raise your risk of bleeding.
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles, and/or feet. Steroids are often given to lessen this swelling.
  • Hair loss: Hair loss is often complete scalp hair loss and can involve loss of eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair. You may notice this a few days or weeks after treatment has started. Most often hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is done.
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) that may last for a few days
  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting). These symptoms may happen within a few hours after your treatment and may last up to 24 hours. Medicines are available to stop or lessen these side effects.
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that hurt.
  • Effects on the nerves are called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness, tingling, or pain in your hands and feet. It may be hard for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk as usual. The effect on the nerves may get worse with more doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it does not get better in all people.
  • Skin and nail changes. You may develop a rash or have skin redness and swelling followed by peeling. Nail problems may occur such as changes in nail color, nails becoming thin or brittle, or loss of the nail. Steroids are often given to lessen these side effects.
  • Weakness that interferes with your daily activities

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Skin and tissue irritation may involve redness, pain, warmth, or swelling at the IV site. This happens if the drug leaks out of the vein and into nearby tissue.
  • Changes in your liver function.  Your doctor will check your liver function as needed.
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Effects on the heart: This drug can weaken the heart and lower heart function. Your heart function will be checked as needed. You may have trouble catching your breath, mainly during activities. You may also have trouble breathing while lying down, and have swelling in your ankles.

Allergic Reactions

Serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis are rare.  While you are getting this drug in your vein (IV), tell your nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms of an allergic reaction:

  • Trouble catching your breath
  • Feeling like your tongue or throat are swelling
  • Feeling your heart beat quickly  or in a not normal way (palpitations)
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Flushing, itching, rash, and/or hives

Infusion Reactions

While you are getting this drug in your vein (IV), you may have a reaction.  Your nurse will check you closely for these signs: fever or shaking chills, flushing, facial swelling, feeling dizzy, headache, trouble breathing, rash, itching, chest tightness, or chest pain. 

Less serious reactions to this drug may also happen.  You will be given medicines to help stop or lessen these symptoms.  Your vital signs will be checked during the infusion. Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms at any time during the infusion and/or for the first 24 hours after getting this drug:

  • Fever, chills, or shaking chills
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Headache
  • Nausea or throwing up

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body due to losing too much fluid).
  • Talk with your nurse about getting a wig before you lose your hair.  Also, call the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 to find out information about the “ Look Good,Feel Better” program close to where you live. It is a free program where women undergoing chemotherapy can learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.
  • Do not put anything on a rash unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry. Ask your doctor for medicine if your rash bothers you.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of routine, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or ½ teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water. This should be done at least after each meal and at bedtime.
  • If you have mouth sores, avoid mouthwash that has alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can bother your mouth and throat.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medicine to stop or lessen loose bowel movements, nausea, throwing up, and joint and muscle pain.
  • If you have numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, be careful when cooking, walking, and handling sharp objects and hot liquids.

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of docetaxel with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor's help.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Rash or itching
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Loose bowel movements (diarrhea) more than 4 times a day or diarrhea with weakness or feeling lightheaded
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin,
  • Eye irritation

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if any of these symptoms happen:

  • Decreased urine
  • Pain in your mouth or throat that makes it hard to eat or drink
  • Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Numbness, tingling, decreased feeling or weakness in fingers, toes, arms, or legs
  • Trouble walking or changes in the way you walk, feeling clumsy when buttoning clothes, opening jars, or other routine hand motions
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week (fluid retention)
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities
  • Headache that does not go away
  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities

Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns

  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
    Genetic counseling is available for you to talk about the effects of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. Also, a genetic counselor can look at the possible risk of problems in the unborn baby due to this medicine if an exposure happens during pregnancy.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

 

Revised July 2014

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