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Docetaxel

Examples

Generic NameBrand Name
docetaxelTaxotere

How It Works

Docetaxel is an intravenous (IV) medicine that is usually given in a dose based on body surface area. The type and extent of a cancer determines the exact dose and schedule for giving this drug.

Why It Is Used

Docetaxel damages structures involved in cell division, which stops the growth of cancer cells. It may be used to treat cancers such as breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer, and stomach cancer.

How Well It Works

Docetaxel is an effective antitumor medicine. But the type and extent of a cancer determines how effectively this medicine slows or stops the growth of cancer cells in the body.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Signs of infection such as a fever or chills.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting.
  • Severe diarrhea.
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes or belly pain. This may mean the medicine has damaged your liver.
  • Swollen belly, ankles, or feet.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • A lack of energy (fatigue).
  • Skin reactions, such as a rash or mild swelling of the hands or feet.
  • Muscle or joint aches.
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis).
  • Nail changes, such as nails becoming soft and tender.
  • Numbness and tingling in the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy).
  • Hair loss. This is reversible, and hair will grow back when treatment ends.

Taking this medicine may cause you to get acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). But this is very rare.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Docetaxel should be given only under the supervision of a medical oncologist. Docetaxel can cause death if taken by a person who is allergic to this medicine. This is rare. But almost all allergic reactions occur while the medicine is being given.

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after taking this medicine. Talk with your doctor about fertility before starting treatment.

This medicine should not be taken by anyone who has liver problems, a low white blood cell count, or who has taken this medicine in the past.

While you are taking this medicine, you will have tests to check your blood cell counts and your liver function.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
Last Revised September 12, 2012

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