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Generic Name: docetaxel (doe se TAX el)
Brand Name: Taxotere, Docefrez

Medically reviewed on Jun 11, 2018

What is docetaxel?

See also: Kisqali

Docetaxel is a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.

Docetaxel is used to treat breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and head/neck cancer.

Docetaxel may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Docetaxel can cause severe side effects including death, especially if you receive high doses, if you have liver disease, or if you have non-small cell lung cancer and you have been treated in the past with chemotherapy that contains platinum (cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin).

Docetaxel can also cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. Get emergency medical help if you have hives, a red skin rash, difficulty breathing, if you feel like you might pass out, or if you have swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Docetaxel can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood will need to be tested often.

Docetaxel may cause fluid retention or severe skin reactions. Call your doctor if you have swelling of your ankles or feet, rapid weight gain, or redness and peeling of the skin on your hands or feet.

Before taking this medicine

You should not receive docetaxel if you have a low white blood cell (WBC) count, or if you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to docetaxel or to any medicine that contains polysorbate 80.

Tell your doctor about your complete health history and all medications you have used. Docetaxel can cause severe side effects including death, especially:

  • if you receive high doses;

  • if you have liver disease; or

  • if you have non-small cell lung cancer and you have been treated in the past with chemotherapy that contains platinum (cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin).

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • liver disease;

  • heart disease;

  • fluid retention; or

  • if you need to limit your alcohol intake.

Using docetaxel may increase your risk of developing other types of cancer, such as leukemia. Ask your doctor about your specific risk.

Docetaxel may harm an unborn baby. Use effective birth control to prevent pregnancy, and tell your doctor if you become pregnant.

You should not breast-feed while receiving docetaxel.

How is docetaxel given?

Docetaxel is given as an infusion into a vein. A healthcare provider will give you this injection.

Docetaxel can be harmful if it gets on your skin during an IV infusion. If this happens, wash right away with soap and water. Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when docetaxel is injected.

You may need frequent medical tests to be sure this medicine is not causing harmful effects. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results. Your vision may also need to be checked.

You may be given steroid medication to help prevent serious side effects or allergic reaction. Keep using the steroid for as long as your doctor has prescribed.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your docetaxel injection, or if you miss a dose of your steroid medication.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What should I avoid while receiving docetaxel?

docetaxel may impair your thinking or reactions for a short time after each injection. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.

Avoid being near people who are sick or have infections. Tell your doctor at once if you develop signs of infection.

Avoid activities that may increase your risk of bleeding or injury. Use extra care to prevent bleeding while shaving or brushing your teeth.

Docetaxel contains alcohol and may cause a drunken feeling when the medicine is injected into your vein. Avoid drinking alcohol on the day of your docetaxel injection.

This medicine can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). For at least 48 hours after you receive a dose, avoid allowing your body fluids to come into contact with your hands or other surfaces. Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient's body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.

Docetaxel side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives, red skin rash; difficult breathing; feeling like you might pass out; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • sudden vision problems;

  • redness, swelling, warmth, or skin changes where the injection was given;

  • extreme weakness, severe vomiting or diarrhea;

  • redness or peeling of the skin on your hands and feet;

  • numbness, burning, or tingling in your hands or feet;

  • a feeling of being drunk--confusion, stumbling, extreme drowsiness;

  • low blood cell counts--fever, chills, tiredness, flu-like symptoms, cough, mouth sores, skin sores, pale skin, cold hands and feet, feeling light-headed or short of breath;

  • low platelets in your blood--easy bruising, unusual bleeding (nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum), purple or red pinpoint spots under your skin;

  • fluid retention--little or no urinating, swelling of your ankles or feet, rapid weight gain; or

  • liver problems--upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Side effects may be more likely in older adults.

Common side effects may include:

  • dryness or discoloration, swelling, warmth, redness, or skin changes where the injection was given;

  • mouth sores, altered sense of taste;

  • eye redness, watery eyes;

  • feeling short of breath;

  • feeling weak or tired;

  • swelling in your hands, feet, or face;

  • nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite;

  • constipation, diarrhea;

  • hair loss (may be permanent in some cases);

  • muscle or joint pain;

  • rash; or

  • fingernail or toenail changes.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

See also: Side effects (in more detail)

What other drugs will affect docetaxel?

Docetaxel contains alcohol. Using other drugs that can make you sleepy can worsen the feeling of being drunk. Ask your doctor before using opioid medication, a sleeping pill, a muscle relaxer, or medicine for anxiety or seizures.

Other drugs may affect docetaxel, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines and any medicine you start or stop using.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.