Skip to Content

Docetaxel Side Effects

In Summary

Commonly reported side effects of docetaxel include: severe neutropenia, infection, severe leukopenia, severe thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, alopecia, anemia, arthralgia, asthenia, burning sensation, diarrhea, dysesthesia, edema, fever, hypersensitivity, increased serum alanine aminotransferase, increased serum aspartate aminotransferase, leukopenia, myalgia, nausea, pain, paresthesia, peripheral edema, skin rash, stomatitis, vomiting, weight gain, nail depigmentation, nail hyperpigmentation, and thinning of nails. Other side effects include: desquamation, increased serum alkaline phosphatase, and increased serum bilirubin. See below for a comprehensive list of adverse effects.

For the Consumer

Applies to docetaxel: intravenous powder for solution, intravenous solution

In addition to its needed effects, some unwanted effects may be caused by docetaxel. In the event that any of these side effects do occur, they may require medical attention.

If any of the following side effects occur while taking docetaxel, check with your doctor or nurse immediately:

More common:
  • Burning, numbness, tingling, or pain in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • swelling of the stomach, face, fingers, hands, feet, or lower legs
  • unusual tiredness or weakness
  • weight gain
Less common:
  • Black, tarry stools
  • blood in the urine or stools
  • cough or hoarseness (accompanied by fever or chills)
  • difficult or labored breathing
  • difficult or painful urination (accompanied by fever or chills)
  • difficulty with swallowing
  • dizziness
  • fast heartbeat
  • fever or chills
  • hives or skin rash
  • itching, puffiness, or swelling of the eyelids or around the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • lower back or side pain (accompanied by fever or chills)
  • noisy, rattling breathing
  • pinpoint red spots on the skin
  • red, scaly, swollen, or peeling areas of the skin (severe)
  • tightness in the chest
  • troubled breathing while at rest
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • decreased blood pressure
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure

Minor Side Effects

Some of the side effects that can occur with docetaxel may not need medical attention. As your body adjusts to the medicine during treatment these side effects may go away. Your health care professional may also be able to tell you about ways to reduce or prevent some of these side effects. If any of the following side effects continue, are bothersome or if you have any questions about them, check with your health care professional:

More common:
  • Congestion
  • diarrhea
  • dryness or soreness of the throat
  • nausea
  • skin rash or redness (mild)
  • sores or ulcers on the lips or tongue or inside the mouth
  • weakness in the arms, hands, legs, or feet
Less common:
  • Bloody nose
  • body aches or pain
  • change in the color of the fingernails or toenails
  • dry, red, hot, or irritated skin at the injection site
  • headache
  • hoarseness
  • loosening or loss of the fingernails or toenails, sometimes painful
  • pain in the joints or muscles
  • pain, swelling, or lump under the skin at the injection site
  • runny nose
  • tender, swollen glands in the neck
  • voice changes
  • vomiting
Incidence not known:
  • Burning, dry, or itching eyes
  • burning upper abdominal or stomach pain
  • confusion
  • difficulty having a bowel movement (stool)
  • discharge from the eyes
  • excessive tearing
  • pain and redness of the skin at the place of earlier radiation treatment
  • rapid breathing
  • redness, pain, or swelling of the eye, eyelid, or inner lining of the eyelid
  • sunken eyes
  • tearing of the eyes
  • wrinkled skin

For Healthcare Professionals

Applies to docetaxel: intravenous powder for injection, intravenous solution


The most common adverse reactions across all indications include infections, neutropenia, anemia, febrile neutropenia, hypersensitivity, thrombocytopenia, neuropathy, dysgeusia, dyspnea, constipation, anorexia, nail disorders, fluid retention, asthenia, pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, mucositis, alopecia, skin reactions, and myalgia.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Neutropenia (up to 99%), leukopenia (up to 99%), thrombocytopenia (up to 39%), anemia (up to 94%)
Common (1% to 10%): Hemorrhage
Postmarketing reports: Bleeding episodes, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)[Ref]

The major dose-limiting toxicity of this drug is reversible marrow suppression. In clinical trials, the median time to nadir was 7 days, and the median duration of severe neutropenia (less than 500 cells/mm3) was 7 days.

Hematologic toxicity is increased at higher doses and in patients with elevated baseline liver function tests.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Hypersensitivity (up to 33%)
Common (1% to 10%): Severe hypersensitivity
Frequency not reported: Flushing, rash with or without pruritus, chest tightness, back pain, dyspnea, drug fever, chills
Postmarketing reports: Anaphylactic shock[Ref]

Severe hypersensitivity reactions have been reported. Minor events, including flushing, rash with or without pruritus, chest tightness, back pain, dyspnea, drug fever, or chills have been reported and after discontinuation of the infusion and instituting treatment as necessary, have resolved.[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Fluid retention (up to 60%)
Common (1% to 10%): Severe fluid retention, hypotension, lymphedema, phlebitis, hypertension
Rare (less than 0.1%): Heart failure, sinus tachycardia, atrial flutter, dysrhythmia, unstable angina, pulmonary edema
Postmarketing reports: Atrial fibrillation, deep vein thrombosis, ECG abnormalities, pulmonary embolism, syncope, tachycardia, myocardial infarction, chest pain[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Alopecia (up to 98%), cutaneous reactions (up to 54%), nail changes (up to 41%)
Common (1% to 10%): Severe cutaneous reactions, severe nail changes, rash
Rare (less than 0.1%): Onycholysis
Postmarketing reports: Very rare cases of cutaneous lupus erythematosus, rare cases of bullous eruptions such as erythema multiforme, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis, and Scleroderma-like changes usually preceded by peripheral lymphedema, severe hand and foot syndrome, radiation recall[Ref]

Cutaneous reactions including severe skin toxicity has been reported. Reversible cutaneous reactions include rash mainly on the feet and/or hands, or on the arms, face, or thorax. This is usually accompanied by pruritus. Eruptions generally occur within 1 week of receiving the drug and resolve before the next infusion.[Ref]

Nervous system

Very common (10% or more): Neurosensory events (up to 58%), dizziness (up to 16%), headache, hypoesthesia
Common (1% to 10%): Severe neurosensory events
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Somnolence
Frequency not reported: Paresthesia, dysesthesia, neuromotor weakness,
Postmarketing reports: Confusion, seizures or transient loss of consciousness[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Acute myeloid leukemia, myelodysplasic syndrome[Ref]

The cumulative risk of developing treatment-related acute myeloid leukemia appears to be similar to the risk observed for other anthracyclines/cyclophosphamide containing adjuvant breast chemotherapy regimens.[Ref]


Among patients with normal liver function tests at baseline, elevations in bilirubin occurred in 8.9%, increases in AST or ALT to greater than 1.5 times the upper limit of normal (1.5 x ULN), or increases in alkaline phosphatase to greater than 2.5 x ULN occurred in 18.9% and 7.3%, respectively. Increases in AST and/or ALT to greater than 1.5 x ULN concurrently with alkaline phosphatase elevations to greater than 2.5 x ULN occurred in 4.3% of patients. It is unknown whether these changes were drug related or related to the underlying disease condition.[Ref]

Very common (10% or more): Transaminase elevations, (18.9%)
Common (1% to 10%): Bilirubin elevations, alkaline phosphatase elevations, transaminase elevations in combination with alkaline phosphatase elevations
Postmarketing reports: Hepatitis[Ref]


Considering all tumor types, stomatitis has been reported in 42% of patients with normal LFTs at baseline and 49% of patients with elevated LFTs. Severe stomatitis has been reported in 6% of patients with normal LFTs at baseline and 13% of patients with elevated LFTs. Stomatitis appears to be dose dependent.[Ref]

Very common (10% or more): Stomatitis (up to 52%), nausea (up to 42%), vomiting (up to 23%), diarrhea (up to 43%), constipation (up to 25%), esophagitis/dysphagia/odynophagia (up to 16%)
Common (1% to 10%): Severe gastrointestinal events, severe stomatitis, gastrointestinal pain and cramping, dry mouth
Uncommon (0.1% to 1%): Gastrointestinal hemorrhage, severe abdominal pain, severe esophagitis
Postmarketing reports: Duodenal ulcer, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, gastrointestinal perforation, ischemic colitis, colitis, intestinal obstruction, ileus, neutropenic enterocolitis, dehydration[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Asthenia (up to 66%), severe asthenia (up to 25%), febrile neutropenia (up to 26%), fever in absence of infection (up to 47%)
Common (1% to 10%): Non-septic death, impaired hearing
Postmarketing reports: Ototoxicity, hearing disorders[Ref]


Infusion reactions were generally mild and consisted of hyperpigmentation, inflammation, redness or dryness of the skin, phlebitis, extravasation, or swelling of the vein.[Ref]

Common (1% to 10%): Infusion site reactions
Frequency not reported: Hyperpigmentation, inflammation, redness or dryness of the skin, phlebitis, extravasation, swelling of the vein[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Lacrimation disorder (up to 11%)
Common (1% to 10%): Conjunctivitis
Postmarketing reports: Cystoid macular edema, transient visual disturbances occurring during drug infusion and in association with hypersensitivity reactions (have been reversible upon discontinuation of the infusion)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Cough, rhinorrhea, pharyngolaryngeal pain
Common (1% to 10%): Epistaxis, pneumonia, dyspnea
Postmarketing reports: Acute pulmonary edema, acute respiratory distress syndrome/pneumonitis, interstitial lung disease, interstitial pneumonia, respiratory failure, and pulmonary fibrosis, rare cases of radiation pneumonitis in patients receiving concomitant radiotherapy[Ref]


Postmarketing reports: Renal insufficiency and renal failure (majority of these cases associated with concomitant nephrotoxic drugs)[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Weight gain (up to 15%), weight loss (up to 21%)
Common (1% to 10%): Anorexia
Postmarketing reports: Hyponatremia[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Myalgia (up to 33%)
Common (1% to 10%): Severe myalgia, arthralgia, bone pain, back pain[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Infections (up to 33%)
Common (1% to 10%): Severe infections, septic death, oral candidiasis[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Insomnia[Ref]


Very common (10% or more): Amenorrhea (up to 62%)
Common (1% to 10%): Menstrual irregularities[Ref]


1. "Product Information. Taxotere (docetaxel)." Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, Collegeville, PA.

2. Cerner Multum, Inc. "UK Summary of Product Characteristics." O 0

3. Cerner Multum, Inc. "Australian Product Information." O 0

Not all side effects for docetaxel may be reported. You should always consult a doctor or healthcare professional for medical advice. Side effects can be reported to the FDA here.

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, up-to-date and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. In addition, the drug information contained herein may be time sensitive and should not be utilized as a reference resource beyond the date hereof. This material does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients, or recommend therapy. This information is a reference resource designed as supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill , knowledge, and judgement of healthcare practitioners in patient care. The absence of a warning for a given drug or combination thereof in no way should be construed to indicate safety, effectiveness, or appropriateness for any given patient. does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of materials provided. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the substances you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.