Taxotere (Docetaxel)

Warning: The FDA has issued several warnings with regards to this medication. Taxotere can cause certain blood disorders, such as an extremely low white blood cell count. Your doctor should monitor your level of white blood cells throughout treatment. Because low white blood cell levels can affect the body’s ability to defend against infection, it is extremely important that you contact your physician if you experience any symptoms of infection.

Some people will also experience severe allergic reactions in connection with the use of this medication. Tell your doctor about any allergies to medicines, especially to docetaxel or other medicines that are made with polysorbate 80. If you experience any symptoms of an allergic reaction, seek medical help immediately.

Severe and dangerous fluid retention can also occur during treatment with this type of medication. It is not commonly seen at the onset of treatment; this side effect is usually manifest during the fifth dosing cycle. Contact your physician if you experience any of the following symptoms: swelling of feet, lower legs, hands or the stomach area, abnormal weight gain, cough, hiccups, rapid breathing or a pounding heart, shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness or fainting, or pale, grayish skin.

Indication:  Currently Taxotere is the only brand name for the drug docetaxel; there are no generic alternatives. As with other chemotherapy drugs, it is used for treatment of various types of cancer including cancer of the breast, prostate, lungs, stomach, ovaries, head, and neck.

This medication is designed to attack cancer cells. Each cell has a support structure that is called the microtubular network. If the microtubular network is somehow altered or damaged, the cell is unable to reproduce. Docetaxel causes this structure to become unnaturally stiff, thereby inhibiting the reproduction of cancer cells.

Dosage: Taxotere is traditionally given intravenously once every three weeks. One treatment usually lasts approximately an hour. To determine a dose capable of fighting your cancer, your oncologist will consider your age, health status, and body surface area (BSA). If you are undergoing radiation therapy or taking other medications, you will be prescribed a lower dosage of Taxotere. Taxotere is always associated with adverse reactions. Before receiving the injection, your physician may give you a drug (dexamethasone for instance) that will alleviate the symptoms of these adverse effects. Therefore, it is you experience any unexpected or adverse reactions during the therapy, see your doctor immediately.  Certain Taxotere adverse reactions can be life threatening.

The risk of complications is higher for patients who had liver disease or have been treated with cisplatin (Platinol) or carboplatin (Paraplatin).

Usually, Taxotere is injected into a vein from an injection site on the skin that has been prepared beforehand. The injection is given once every 3 weeks and lasts approximately 1 hour. Taxotere should be given by an oncologist or health care professional that has experience in chemotherapy drugs. In addition, It is recommended that Taxotere is administered in a hospital or a health center having sterilization material for its preparation.

Overdose: Taxotere is given in hospital by professionals; the risk of overdose is very difficult. However, accidental overdose can happen. An overdose of Taxotere can cause a decrease in the number of blood cells in the bone marrow, and lead to severe health problems or death.  Even in the absence of overdose, Taxotere can cause severe allergic reactions and fluid retention. Before starting the treatment, tell your doctor all details about your medical history. During and after the treatment, compliance with all appointments with your doctor is necessary. Regular testing can help detect abnormalities in early stage before they become life threatening conditions.

Missing dose – Taxotere is administered in hospital; it is basically difficult for you to miss any dose if you keep all appointments of your doctor. If for some reasons you cannot go to the hospital for the treatment, contact your oncologist before the date scheduled for the injection. Any missing dose of Taxotere can affect the entire therapy.

Contraindications: Notify your doctor if you have ever had liver disease or if you have had lung cancer and recieved cisplatin (Platinol) or carboplatin (Paraplatin) as part of your treatment. If you have had either of these things, you may be at a higher risk for certain dangerous side effects such as skin reactions, sores in the mouth, and even death.

Mechanism of action (MOA): Taxotere is a taxane; it stops the growth and spread of cancer cells by interfering with their DNA, a genetic material necessary for the growth and reproduction of living cells.

Interactions: There are various drugs that interact with this medication including any live vaccines. Also, medications that affect liver function, or the way that medicines are removed from the body, can interact with docetaxel. Be sure to tell your doctor about any other medications, vitamins, or supplements that you are taking, whether they are prescription or over the counter.

Side effects: In addition to attacking cancer cells, Taxotere may interfere with healthy cells that multiply quickly, and cause a number of adverse reactions in most patients. Most common Taxotere side effects include:

  • weight loss
  • hair loss
  • tiredness
  • weakness
  • diarrhea
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sores on your lips or mouth
  • dry mouth
  • change in taste
  • decreased appetite
  • darkening of skin
  • skin rash
  • muscle or limb pain
  • redness or swelling at the injection site
  • White horizontal discoloration of the nail plate

 If the side effects above persist for weeks, contact your oncologist. Also, contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • nosebleeds
  • blistering skin
  • weakness in the hands and feet
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • numbness, tingling, or burning sensation in the hands or feet
  • fast or irregular heart beat
  • black or tarry stools
  • blood in urine
  • severe shortness of breath
  • severe pain in the lower back or along the side accompanied with fever or chills
  • chest pain
  • rash occurring during or shortly after your treatment
  • difficulty breathing at rest
  • Cough or hoarseness accompanied with fever and/or chills

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