Highlights for docetaxel
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.
Docetaxel is available as the brand-name drugs called Docefrez and Taxotere. It’s also available as a generic drug.
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.
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.
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.
What is docetaxel?
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.
docetaxel Side Effects
More Common Side Effects
The most common side effects of docetaxel include:
changes in your sense of taste
shortness of breath
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
mouth or lip sores
permanent or temporary hair loss
redness of your eye or extra tearing
skin reactions at the site of you docetaxel injection, such as:
- darker or lighter skin color
tissue damage. Symptoms can include:
- redness and swelling
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:
- 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:
- 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
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.
docetaxel May Interact with Other Medications
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.
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.
How to Take docetaxel (Dosage)
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.
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.
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- Taxotere-docetaxel injection, solution, concentrate. (2014, November). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/getFile.cfm?setid=45e6dce4-92e2-4ad1-bf11-bbcefb753636&type=pdf&name=45e6dce4-92e2-4ad1-bf11-bbcefb753636
- Docefrez-docetaxel anhydrous. (2014, November). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/getFile.cfm?setid=b35e3633-8893-4b0b-af1e-92e342557199&type=pdf&name=b35e3633-8893-4b0b-af1e-92e342557199
- Docetaxel-docetaxel solution. (2013, June). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/getFile.cfm?setid=70aeb960-426c-4805-b956-476bebccd926&type=pdf&name=70aeb960-426c-4805-b956-476bebccd926
- Docetaxel-docetaxel anhydrous injection, solution. (2014, July). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/getFile.cfm?setid=a0ec4bcc-93ea-4c41-a4b6-95ec19491807&type=pdf&name=a0ec4bcc-93ea-4c41-a4b6-95ec19491807
- Docetaxel-docetaxel injection, solution. Accord Healthcare Inc. (2014, July). Retrieved from http://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/getFile.cfm?setid=f59f7811-70b7-4c44-99f7-4f4fdce3ed22&type=pdf&name=f59f7811-70b7-4c44-99f7-4f4fdce3ed22
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