What Docetaxel is and what it is used for?
- Docetaxel is a plant alkaloids derived from the needles of the European yew tree. This drug inhibits the action of proteins called microtubules for cell division, thus stopping cancer cells from separating into two new cells, eventually causing cell death.
- Docetaxel can be given alone or in combination with other medicines to treat many cancers, including breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), stomach cancer, prostate cancer, and head and neck cancer.
How Docetaxel is given?
- Docetaxel is given as an infusion into a vein over one hour.
- Before each treatment with docetaxel, you will have oral steroids to reduce the risk of fluid retention and allergic reactions. Take these steroids exactly as directed by your doctor. If you do not take it on schedule, you must tell the doctor before treatment.
What should I know while receiving Docetaxel?
- If docetaxel leaks into the skin, it can cause severe tissue damage and blistering. Tell your nurse right away if you notice swelling, pain, or redness at the injection site during an infusion.
- An allergic reaction may happen during or shortly after the infusion, causing fever and chills, breathing difficulties, swelling of throat or face, or hives. Tell your nurse right away if you feel unwell during an infusion.
- Do not use docetaxel when you are pregnant. Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 3 and 6 months after the treatment ends.
- Do not breastfeed and for 2 weeks after treatment ends.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- Docetaxel may affect fertility. You can talk to your doctor about methods of preserving fertility before treatment starts.
- You will have regular blood tests to make sure you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive docetaxel. The timing and dosing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or side effects.
- There are many drugs may affect how docetaxel works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of docetaxel. You should let your doctor know if you have any other medical problems, especially liver or heart problems.
Common side effects
- Low white blood cell count
You may have a higher risk of getting infections. Try to stay away from crowds and wash hands often. Tell your doctor right away if you have repeated fevers, coughing, stuffy nose, a painful urination or wound that becomes red and swollen.
- Low red blood cell count
You may look pale and get tired more easily. Let your doctor know if you experience any difficulty breathing or dizziness when changing positions.
- Hair loss
It may begin 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. Hair growth should return after treatment has finished.
- Skin reactions
Symptoms include darkening of the skin, itching, and rash. Tell your doctor about any skin changes that you have. Your doctor can give you medicines and advices that help you feel better.
- Nail changes
The color or shape of nails may change and the nails may also become brittle or crack. The nails usually grow back slowly once the treatment is over.
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve diarrhea.
- Mouth sores
Your doctor can give you medicines that help you ease the discomfort. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
- Nausea and vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Weakness and fatigue
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
Symptoms may last as long as therapy is continued. In some people, the symptoms will get better after treatment ends, but for some it never goes away completely. Protect areas where sensation is decreased and let your doctor know any unusual feeling you have.
- swelling of lower legs or hands
Tell your doctor if your hands, arms, legs, or feet feel puffy or tender. The doctor may give medicines to reduce your symptoms and suggest ways to prevent fluid buildup.
Less common side effects
- Low platelet count
You may have a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor know if you find red or purple dots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, or any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
- Muscle or joint pain
Talk to the doctor if the pain is bothering you, they can give you medicine to help ease pain.
- Elevated liver enzymes
This is usually mild and may return to normal after treatment has ended. Seek medical help right away if you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen, as these can be signs of liver toxicity.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarettes during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.
- Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking beverages containing grapefruit. This is because grapefruits can affect how docetaxel works and can worsen the side effects.
- Avoid the use of St. John's Wort as it may make docetaxel less effective.