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Paclitaxel

Generic Name: paclitaxel (PAK li TAK sel)
Brand Name: Onxol, Taxol

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com on Jan 24, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

What is paclitaxel?

Paclitaxel is used to treat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer. It is also used to treat AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma.

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

Important Information

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

Paclitaxel can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. You may get an infection or bleed more easily. Call your doctor if you have unusual bruising or bleeding, or signs of infection (fever, chills, tiredness).

Before taking this medicine

You should not be treated with paclitaxel if you are allergic to it, or if you have:

  • low white blood cell (WBC) counts; or

  • an allergy to castor oil (contained in paclitaxel and other medicines such as cyclosporine or teniposide).

Tell your doctor if you have ever had:

Paclitaxel 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 you are using paclitaxel.

How is paclitaxel given?

Paclitaxel is injected into a vein through an IV. A healthcare provider will give you this injection. You may be given other medications to prevent an allergic reaction while you are receiving paclitaxel.

Paclitaxel is usually given once every 3 weeks. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

Your breathing, blood pressure, oxygen levels, kidney function, and other vital signs will be watched closely while you are receiving paclitaxel.

Tell your caregivers if you feel any burning, pain, or swelling around the IV needle when paclitaxel is injected.

Paclitaxel can lower blood cells that help your body fight infections and help your blood to clot. Your blood will need to be tested often. Your cancer treatments may be delayed based on the results of these tests.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Call your doctor for instructions if you miss an appointment for your paclitaxel injection.

What happens if I overdose?

Since paclitaxel is given by a healthcare professional in a medical setting, an overdose is unlikely to occur.

What should I avoid while using paclitaxel?

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

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.

Paclitaxel side effects

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

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • severe stomach pain or diarrhea;

  • flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling);

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

  • severe redness or irritation, swelling or a hard lump, or other skin changes where the injection was given (may occur 7 to 10 days after an injection);

  • pain or burning when you urinate;

  • chest pain, shortness of breath;

  • wheezing, cough with or without mucus;

  • fast or slow heartbeats;

  • a light-headed feeling, like you might pass out;

  • a seizure;

  • severe headache, blurred vision, pounding in your neck or ears;

  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes); or

  • low blood cell counts--fever, chills, tiredness, mouth sores, skin sores, easy bruising, unusual bleeding, pale skin, cold hands and feet, feeling light-headed.

Your cancer treatments may be delayed or permanently discontinued if you have certain side effects.

Common side effects may include:

  • fever;

  • low blood cell counts, feeling weak or tired;

  • bleeding;

  • trouble breathing;

  • hair loss;

  • numbness or tingling;

  • swelling in your face, hands, or feet;

  • sores or white patches in or around your mouth;

  • joint or muscle pain;

  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; or

  • mild redness or tenderness where the medicine was injected.

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.

What other drugs will affect paclitaxel?

Sometimes it is not safe to use certain medications at the same time. Some drugs can affect your blood levels of other drugs you take, which may increase side effects or make the medications less effective.

Many drugs can affect paclitaxel. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible interactions are listed here. 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.

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