Docetaxel (Generic Name)

Other Names: Taxotere®

About This Drug

Docetaxel is used to treat cancer. This drug is given intravenously (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. Bone marrow depression usually occurs seven days after the drug is given and may increase your risk of infection, fatigue, and bleeding.
  • Edema, which is swelling, usually in your ankles, feet, arms and hands. Steroids are often given to lessen this side effect.
  • Hair loss. Most patients experience scalp and body hair loss. You may notice hair thinning several days after receiving this drug. Usually hair loss is temporary; your hair should grow back when treatment is completed.
  • Diarrhea that may last for several days
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Soreness of the mouth and throat. You may have red areas, white patches, or sores that are painful.
  • Effects on the nerves called peripheral neuropathy. You may feel numbness or tingling in your hands and feet. It may be difficult for you to button your clothes, open jars, or walk normally. The effect on the nerves may get worse with additional doses of the drug. These effects get better in some people after the drug is stopped but it may not get better in some 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 discoloration, thinning, brittleness, or loss of the nail.  Steroids are often given to lessen these side effects.

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Allergic reactions to this drug occur in some patients. They usually happen very soon after the intravenous drug is given. You will be given medication before you receive docetaxel to help prevent allergic reactions. Signs of allergic reaction are rash or itching, dizziness or lightheadedness, palpitations, and shortness of breath.
  • Phlebitis, which is redness and tenderness of a vein
  • Colitis which is an inflammation of the colon.  The symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and sometimes blood in the stool.
  • Changes in your liver function.  Your liver function will be monitored as needed.
  • Muscle and joint pain

 Sexual Problems and Reproductive Concerns

 In men and women both, this drug may temporarily or permanently affect your ability to have children. This cannot be determined before your therapy. In men, this drug may interfere with your ability to make sperm, but it should not change your ability to have sexual relations. In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are taking this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period. Women may experience signs of menopause like vaginal dryness or itching.

    •  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.
    • Speak with your doctor or nurse if you plan to have children.  Ask for information on sperm or egg banking. 
    •  Genetic counseling is available to you to discuss the effect of this drug therapy on future pregnancies. In addition, a genetic counselor can review the potential risks of problems in the fetus due to this medication if an exposure during pregnancy has occurred.  
    •  Breast feeding warning:  It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breast feeding infant.
    • Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations. 

Treating Side Effects

  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids every day unless your doctor has told you to restrict your fluid intake due to another medical condition. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you vomit or have diarrhea, you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated.
  • Speak with your nurse about obtaining 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 learn about wigs, turbans and scarves as well as makeup techniques and skin and nail care.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse what you can apply to a rash or other skin problem. Do not put anything on your rash or skin redness unless your doctor or nurse says you may. Keep the area around the rash clean and dry.
  • Mouth care is very important. Your mouth care should consist of regular, gentle cleaning of your teeth or dentures and rinsing your mouth with a mixture of ½ teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water or 1/2 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) in 8 ounces of water.
  • Avoid mouthwash that contains alcohol. Avoid alcohol and smoking because they can irritate your mouth and throat.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse about medication to help prevent or lessen diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Take prescribed medications to help relieve diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, joint and muscle pain.
  • 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 medication. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medication and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly 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 advice.

While you are receiving this drug by IV, tell your nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms of an allergic reaction:

    • Shortness of breath
    • Rash or itching
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations)

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or above
  • Chills
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Trouble breathing
  • Redness or tenderness along a vein
  • Uncontrolled nausea that prevents you from eating or drinking
  • Vomiting more than twice in one day
  • Diarrhea of four stools a day or diarrhea with weakness or lightheadedness
  • Swelling of your arms, hands, legs or feet

 

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Signs of peripheral neuropathy: numbness, tingling, or decreased sensation in fingers or toes; difficulty walking or changes in the way you walk; or clumsiness in buttoning clothes, opening jars, or other routine activities
  • Joint and muscle pain unrelieved by prescribed medication
  • Weight gain of over five pounds in a week
  • Painful mouth or throat that makes it difficult to eat or drink

Revised January 2011

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com