Taxotere is a drug that can be administered either as a single agent, or in combination with cisplatin or carboplatin.
The route of administration is intravenous and the administration schedule is one day every 3 weeks or a weekly dosage (once a week). The clinician chooses the administration schedule based on the patient’s general condition and any comorbidities. There are no significant differences between the two schedules of administration in terms of efficacy, but only of tolerability (weekly administration is associated with fewer side effects than the three per week one).
Potential side effects of Taxotere
- Temporary reduction of bone marrow function. Docetaxel can cause anemia, a tendency to develop bruising, bleeding and infections. Reduced bone marrow function may occur approximately seven days after drug administration, usually reaching minimum values 10-14 days after chemotherapy.
Blood cell counts start to rise constantly and normalize within 21 days usually. The blood cells count decreases according to the dose of docetaxel you receive and any other drugs with which chemotherapy is taken with. The oncologist will be able to tell you the chances your blood cell count will decrease following chemotherapy. You will undergo periodic blood tests to check bone marrow function.
If the temperature rises above 38° C or if you develop bruising or bleeding without apparent reason, or if you suddenly do not feel well even if the temperature is normal, immediately contact the oncologist or hospital.
- Nausea and vomiting. They are usually mild. Anti-emetics are very effective drugs that can prevent or significantly reduce nausea and vomiting. If nausea occurs anyway despite taking such medications, this can occur within a few hours after treatment. If the nausea is not controllable or persists, inform the oncologist, who will not hesitate to prescribe another more effective antiemetic.
- Pain or ulcers of the oral cavity. If you experience a painful sensation in your mouth or notice small ulcers, inform the oncologist, who can advise you on the most appropriate remedies for your case. Toothache is also possible.
- Diarrhea. It can be easily controlled with medication but inform the oncologist if it is severe or persistent. In case of diarrhea, you have to drink a lot to replenish lost fluids.
- Hair loss. It usually develops 2-3 weeks after the first dose of docetaxel is given, but it can also occur earlier. You might notice that even the eyelashes, eyebrows and other body hair thin out and fall. In any case, it is a temporary phenomenon: the hair will grow back once the treatment is complete. Sometimes hair loss could be preceded by pain in the scalp.
- Skin manifestations. Docetaxel can cause a skin rash, similar to acne, which can itch. The oncologist will be able to prescribe the appropriate medications to alleviate the discomfort.
- Tenderness and redness of the palm of the hand and the sole of the foot (sometimes known as palmar-plantar syndrome). It is a temporary side effect that disappears at the end of the treatment.
- Allergic reaction. Signs of allergic reaction include rash and itching, rising temperature, chills, flushing, dizziness, headache, shortness of breath and more frequent urination. You will be monitored during treatment to detect any signs of an allergic reaction. Inform the oncologist or nurse if you notice any signs. A dual-use steroid treatment course is often prescribed to prevent the development of an allergic reaction and to reduce other side effects.
- Fatigue and widespread feeling of weakness. You will need to rest a lot.
- Fluid retention. You may find that your weight increases and that your legs and ankles swell. This phenomenon disappears slowly at the end of treatment. In some cases, drugs can be prescribed before starting docetaxel therapy in order to contain water retention.
Less frequent side effects
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. It is determined by the action of docetaxel on the nerves. You may notice that you have difficulty buttoning your clothes or writing correctly. If you experience a numbness or tingling sensation in your hands or feet, inform the oncologist. The situation gradually improves within a few months after the end of the treatment.
- Nail alterations. The nails may change color but will get their normal appearance a few months after the end of the treatment. In very rare cases you may also experience a sensation of pain at the base of the nail.
- Joint or muscle pain. It is important that you inform the oncologist who will be able to prescribe analgesic or anti-inflammatory drugs that relieve pain.
If during the administration you feel pain in the area around the puncture site or around the vein, immediately inform the oncologist or a nurse, who will slow down the infusion to reduce discomfort. If you experience pain or burning in the area around the puncture site or around the vein, or if you notice a leak, tell the oncologist or a nurse immediately. If the area around the puncture site appears to be irritated or swollen, inform the oncologist or a nurse in the ward or, if you are at home, call the hospital and ask to speak to one of them.
Fertility. The drug can affect the ability to conceive. It is important that you deal with fertility problems with your oncologist before treatment begins.
Contraception. It is not advisable to start a pregnancy or conceive a child if you are being treated with docetaxel, as the drug could compromise fetal development. Again, discuss this openly with the oncologist.