How is docetaxel given and what are the side effects?

Last Modified: March 11, 2007

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
How is docetaxel given and what are the side effects?

Answer

Carolyn Vachani RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink's Nurse Educator, responds:

Docetaxel is a type of chemotherapy called a taxane, which is given intravenously (into a vein, through an IV). It is typically given every three weeks in your doctor's office or infusion center. Side effects associated with docetaxel include: a decrease in your blood counts (white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells), mouth sores, hair loss, loss of appetite and flu like symptoms (chills, muscle aches). Some patients experience fluid retention causing swelling in the hands, legs or feet, shortness of breath, rapid weight gain or an inability to urinate. A medication called dexamethasone is given before docetaxel to decrease the likelihood of developing fluid retention, but if you notice these symptoms, you should call your doctor right away. Some patients develop numbness or tingling in the hands and/or feet. Let your doctor know if you notice this side effect, as you may require a change in the dose of docetaxel you receive to prevent this from getting worse.

Some side effects that are considered less common with docetaxel include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, changes in the color or texture of your skin or nails, women may stop menstruating and fertility may be affected in women and men. Your nurse and doctor will monitor you during the infusion for any allergic reactions or decreases in blood pressure and check you liver function periodically with blood tests.