Docetaxel | Side Effects, Dosage, Uses & More
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Generic Name:

docetaxel, Injectable solution

Generic Name:

All Brands

  • Taxotere
  • Docefrez
SECTION 1 of 4

Highlights for docetaxel

Injectable solution
1

Docetaxel is an injected drug used to treat cancer. It’s used for breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and head and neck cancer.

2

Docetaxel is available as the brand-name drugs called Docefrez and Taxotere. It’s also available as a generic drug.

3

Common side effects include infections, fluid build-up, hair loss, weight loss, and problems digesting food. They also include changes in your sense of taste, shortness of breath, constipation, decreased appetite, swelling of your hands, face, or feet, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

4

Docetaxel will be given to you as an intravenous (IV) injection into your vein. The infusion will likely take 1 hour or longer. You’ll receive this drug in a doctor’s office or hospital. You won’t take it at home.

5

This drug can cause serious side effects. These can sometimes be fatal. Your risk may be higher if you take high doses of docetaxel, have liver problems, or have non-small cell lung cancer. It may also be higher if you have been treated with medication containing platinum, or have received dexamethasone before using this medication.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

FDA warning

This drug has a Black Box Warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients to potentially dangerous effects.

Life-threatening side effects warning. This drug can cause serious side effects. These can sometimes be fatal. Your risk may be higher if you take high doses of docetaxel, have liver problems, or have non-small cell lung cancer. It may also be higher if you have been treated with medication containing platinum, or have received dexamethasone before using this medication.

Serious infections warning. Docetaxel can lower the amount of white blood cells in your body that help fight off infection. Your doctor will do blood tests during treatment to make sure that your blood cells aren’t too low. If they are, you have a higher risk of serious infections and you may not be treated with docetaxel. Your doctor may have you take your temperature regularly while you take this drug. Call your doctor right away if you have a fever or any other signs of an infection. 

Serious allergic reactions warning. This drug can cause a serious allergic reaction that can be fatal. Tell your doctor right away if you have any signs of a serious allergic reaction, including:

  • trouble breathing
  • sudden swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
  • trouble swallowing
  • hives (raised bumps), rash, or redness all over your body

Severe fluid retention warning. This drug can cause life-threatening fluid retention. To decrease your risk, you must take another medicine, a corticosteroid, before each docetaxel treatment. You must take the corticosteroid exactly as your doctor tells you. If you forget to take the corticosteroid, tell your healthcare provider right away.

Drug alcohol content

Some forms of docetaxel contain alcohol. The alcohol content in it may impair your ability to drive, use machinery, or do similar activities that require alertness after your injection. You may need a ride home from the treatment center after you receive this drug.

Medical history

Before you receive docetaxel, tell your doctor about your health conditions and allergies. It’s important to tell your doctor if you have liver problems, are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Also, be sure to mention if you have a history of severe allergic reaction, with symptoms such as trouble breathing and rash or swelling. If you have this history, you should not take this medication.

Other medications

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Docetaxel may affect the way other medicines work in your body, and other medicines may affect the way docetaxel works. Keep a list of the drugs that you take to show your doctor and pharmacist when you start a new medicine.

Drug features

Docetaxel is a prescription drug. It is available in these forms: intravenous (IV) solution, which is only given by a healthcare provider.

Docetaxel is available as the brand-name drugs called Docefrez and Taxotere. It’s also available as a generic drug. Generic drugs usually cost less. In some cases, they may not be available in every strength or form as the brand-name version. 

This drug may be used as part of a combination therapy. That means you need to take it with other drugs. 

Why it's used

Docetaxel is used to treat breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, stomach cancer, and head and neck cancer.

How it works

Docetaxel belongs to a class of drugs called antineoplastics.

More Details

How it works

Docetaxel belongs to a class of drugs called antineoplastics. A class of drugs refers to medications that work similarly. They have a similar chemical structure and are often used to treat similar conditions.

This drug disrupts the process where cells divide and multiply. This stops new cancer cells from forming.

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docetaxel Side Effects

Injectable solution

More Common Side Effects

The most common side effects of docetaxel include:

  • changes in your sense of taste

  • shortness of breath

  • constipation

  • decreased appetite

  • fingernails or toenails becoming weaker or darker in color

  • swelling of your hands, face, or feet

  • weakness or tiredness

  • joint and muscle pain

  • nausea and vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • mouth or lip sores

  • permanent or temporary hair loss

  • skin rash

  • redness of your eye or extra tearing

  • skin reactions at the site of you docetaxel injection, such as:

    • darker or lighter skin color
    • redness
    • tenderness
    • swelling
    • warmth
    • dryness
  • tissue damage. Symptoms can include:

    • redness and swelling
    • blistering
    • pain

If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious Side Effects

If you experience any of these serious side effects, call your doctor right away. If your symptoms are potentially life threatening or if you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

  • Serious infections. Symptoms can include:

    • fever
    • cough
    • sore throat
  • Severe fluid retention. To decrease the chance of this happening, you must take another medicine, a corticosteroid, before each docetaxel treatment. Symptoms can include:

    • trouble breathing
    • weight gain
    • swelling in your legs or feet
  • Blood disorders. Changes in blood counts due to leukemia (blood cancer) and other blood disorders may occur years after your treatment with docetaxel. Symptoms can include:

    • tiredness
    • frequent infections
    • bruising easily
  • Skin reactions. Symptoms can include:

    • redness and swelling of your arms and legs with peeling of your skin
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning in your hands and feet

  • Blurred vision or loss of vision

Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

This drug may cause drowsiness. Some forms of docetaxel contain alcohol. The alcohol content in it may impair your ability to drive, use machinery, or do similar activities that require alertness right after your injection. You may need a ride home from the treatment center after you receive this drug.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history.
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docetaxel May Interact with Other Medications

Injectable solution

Docetaxel can interact with other medications, herbs, or vitamins you might be taking. Your healthcare provider will look out for interactions with your current medications. Always be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, herbs or vitamins you’re taking.

Alcohol interaction

Some forms of docetaxel contain alcohol. The alcohol content in it may impair your ability to drive, use machinery, or do similar activities that require alertness after your injection. You may need a ride home from the treatment center after you receive this drug.

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs interact differently in each person, we cannot guarantee that this information includes all possible interactions. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always speak with your healthcare provider about possible interactions with all prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs and supplements, and over-the-counter drugs that you are taking.
Docataxel warnings
liver problems
People with liver problems

If your liver isn’t working well, your body isn’t able to clear the medication as well as it should. This puts you at a higher risk of serious side effects. You also have a higher risk of having a fatal reaction to this drug. Your doctor will evaluate your liver problems because you shouldn’t take this drug if your liver problems are severe.

previous chemotherapy
People previously treated with chemotherapy

If you have non–small-cell lung cancer and have been treated with chemotherapy medicines that contain platinum, you have a higher risk of having a fatal reaction to this drug.

low white blood cells
People with low white blood cells

Docetaxel can lower the amount of white blood cells in your body that help fight off infection. This raises your risk for serious infections. Your doctor will check your white blood cell counts regularly during treatment. If they’re too low, you won’t receive this drug.

pregnant women
Pregnant women

Docetaxel is a category D pregnancy drug. That means two things:

  1. Studies show a risk of adverse effects to the fetus when the mother takes the drug.
  2. The benefits of taking the drug during pregnancy may outweigh the potential risks in certain cases.

Docetaxel may harm your unborn baby. You shouldn’t become pregnant during your treatment with docetaxel. Talk to your doctor about effective birth control options.

Tell your doctor if you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Docetaxel should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

breastfeeding
Women who are breast-feeding

It isn’t known if docetaxel passes into breastmilk. If it does, it may cause serious effects in a child who is breastfed. You should not breastfeed your child while taking this medication.

for seniors
For seniors

As you age, your organs (such as your liver, kidneys, or heart) may not work as well as they did when you were younger. More of this drug may stay in your body and put you at risk for severe side effects.

Also, seniors may have other health conditions or take other medications that can interact with docetaxel. Your doctor may start you on a lower dose of this drug and watch you more closely.

for children
For children

The safety and effectiveness of docetaxel haven’t been established in children younger than 18 years.

allergies
Allergies

Docetaxel can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include:

  • skin rash, hives, or redness all over your body
  • decreased blood pressure
  • trouble breathing
  • swelling of your face, lips, throat, or tongue
  • trouble swallowing

Don’t take this drug again if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to docetaxel or polysorbate 80 (an ingredient in this drug). Taking it a second time after an allergic reaction could be fatal.

SECTION 4 of 4

How to Take docetaxel (Dosage)

Injectable solution

Your doctor will determine a dose that’s right for you based on your individual needs. Your general health may affect your dose. Tell your doctor about all health conditions you have before your doctor or nurse administers the drug to you.    

Disclaimer: Our goal is to provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this list includes all possible dosages. This information is not a substitute for medical advice. Always to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about dosages that are right for you.
Pharmacist's Advice
Healthline Pharmacist Editorial Team

Docetaxel comes with serious risks if you don’t take it as prescribed.

If you don’t take it at all

Your cancer may get worse by spreading to other parts of your body (known as metastasis).

If you skip or miss doses/appointments

It’s important to receive all of your doses on schedule. If you’re unable to make your appointment, let your doctor know right away and ask what to do.

If you take too much

If you take too much, you’ll have a higher risk of serious complications, such as low blood cell count (caused by bone marrow suppression), painful mouth sores (mucositis), or peripheral neurotoxicity (a condition that causes numbness and tingling in your limbs). This may cause the following symptoms:

  • tingling or loss of feeling in your arms or legs
  • loss of strength or energy
  • burning feeling throughout the body

Call your doctor right away if you think that you’ve received too much docetaxel. Your doctor will monitor you closely and treat whatever symptoms you are experiencing.

How to tell the drug is working

Your doctor will do tests periodically to make sure that docetaxel is working for you.

Docetaxel is a short-term drug treatment.

How long does it take?

An injection of docetaxel usually takes 1 hour.

Can I drive home after?

You may need a ride home from the treatment center after you receive this drug.

Docetaxel contains alcohol. The alcohol content in it may impair your ability to drive, use machinery, or do similar activities that require alertness after your injection.

Travel

Doxorubicin should only be given by a healthcare provider that knows your medical history and is experienced with chemotherapy, and at a location with medical support to manage severe infusion reactions.

Before you travel, talk to your doctor. You may need to plan your travel around your infusion schedule.

Your doctor may do additional tests

It’s important to monitor your body temperature at home during your treatment with docetaxel. A fever could be a sign of a serious infection. Follow your doctor’s instructions for how often to take your temperature. Call your doctor right away if you have a fever.

Clinical monitoring

During your treatment with docetaxel, your doctor will check the following:

  • blood counts to check for an infection
  • liver function
  • side effects from the infusion, such as:
    • allergic reaction. Symptoms include:
      • warmth and reddening of your cheeks (flushing)
      • skin reactions, such as darker skin color, redness, tenderness, swelling, warmth, or dry skin
    • fluid retention. Symptoms include:
      • trouble breathing
      • weight gain
      • swelling in your legs or feet
    • tissue damage

Insurance

Some dosage forms of docetaxel may require prior authorization.

Content developed in collaboration with University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group

Medically reviewed by Creighton University, Center for Drug Information and Evidence-Based Practice on January 21, 2016

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.
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