Docetaxel is a chemotherapy drug that is used in the treatment of some cancers including breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and prostate cancer. It may be helpful to read the general chemotherapy information section together with this section, as it will give more advice on chemotherapy side effects.
It is a colourless fluid.
Docetaxel is given as an infusion intravenous into a peripheral cannula or via a central line.
The side effects mentioned below may not affect everyone, as each patient’s reaction to chemotherapy is different. It will also depend on how many chemotherapy drugs you are receiving. If you experience any effects that you think are related to your chemotherapy, please discuss them with your oncology doctor or chemotherapy nurse.
You will be more prone to infection as Docetaxel affects your white cell production from the bone marrow. This effect usually occurs about 7 days after your chemotherapy. Your white cells however do gradually recover and are usually within normal ranges for your next chemotherapy course.
You should contact your doctor or the Oncology Unit straight away if you if you have a sore throat,cough, pain passing urine, redness and swelling at e.g. at a catheter site. Or have a temperature of 38 degrees° C or greater.
You may feel lethargic and breathless due to a reduction in your red cells caused by Docetaxel. Inform your doctor if you are feeling these effects.
Docetaxel can also affect the production of platelets, which can cause bleeding or bruising. Inform your doctor if you notice any unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Docetaxel can make make you feel sick nausea or to to be sick vomit . When this occurs can vary. Your doctor will prescribe some medications to prevent this anti-emetics . If you continue to feel sick it is important to inform your doctor.
You may develop a sore mouth or ulcers due to your chemotherapy. You will be prescribed some mouthwashes. Inform your doctor or nurse if your mouth becomes sore or you develop ulcers. You may also experience some taste changes, which will resolve when you finish your treatment.
You may lose all your hair or it may just thin out. This usually happens after your first course of chemotherapy. This is temporary and your hair will grow back.
You may feel very tired. This can last for a few months after your treatment. Inform your doctor or nurse of how you are feeling.
You may find that your appetite decreases while you are receiving chemotherapy. You should maintain a healthy diet and ask to speak to your dietician if you have any worries.
You may experience some shortness of breath, facial flushing and chest tightness. This is a reaction to the drug. You should inform your nurse if you experience any of these symptoms.
Docetaxel can cause some fluid retention. This can manifest as swelling in the ankles and you might find that you put on weight. To prevent this, you will be given steroid tablets to take a day before your treatment.
Docetaxel can cause a soreness and redness of the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. This is also known as palmar planter syndrome. It can become quite severe and your doctor or chemotherapy nurse needs to be informed if this symptom occurs.
A rash may develop on the extremities and on the trunk of the body.
You will be more sensitive to sunlight, so you should avoid the sun and wear a high sun factor during and after your treatment.
Tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
This is caused by the effect of Docetaxel on the nerves and can also be called peripheral neuropathy. You may also experience pain and find it difficult to do up buttons. It usually disappears after the treatment has stopped. You should inform your doctor if you are experiencing this symptom, as there are medications that can be given to relieve it.
For more information on peripheral neuropathy, please see our factsheet.
Docetaxel can cause some changes to your liver. You will have regular blood tests to monitor your liver function.
Changes to your nails
Rarely, pain at the nail bed can occur. The colour of your nails may also change. This tends to grow out after treatment has completed.
Painful joints or muscles
You may experience some pain in your muscles or joints. If this occurs, inform your doctor, who will be able to prescribe some painkillers.
Docetaxel can cause you to feel like you have consumed alcohol so it is best to avoid driving, operating machinery, or performing other activities that are dangerous for one to two hours after the infusion of docetaxel. It is also important to note that some medications, such as pain relievers and sleep aids, may interact with the alcohol in the docetaxel infusion and worsen the intoxicating effects.
It is important to discuss this with your doctor as Docetaxel may affect your fertility.
It is important to use a reliable form of contraception while you are on treatment and for at least two years after your treatment has completed. It is not advised to get pregnant while on treatment as the drugs may affect the foetus.
It is important to inform your doctor of any medications that you are taking, including over the counter medications or herbal drugs as they can interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.
- The Chemotherapy Source Book (2nd edition). M. Perry, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 1997
- British National Formulary (53rd edition). British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, March 2007
- The Cytotoxics Handbook (3rd edition). M. Allwood, A. Stanley and P. Wright, Radcliffe Medical Press, Oxford and New York, 1997