Paclitaxel is used on its own or together with other medicines to treat cancer of the breast, lung, ovary, and pancreas. It may also be used to treat a special type of cancer, called Kaposi sarcoma, which may be associated with AIDS (acquired immune-deficiency syndrome caused by HIV infection).
Paclitaxel is to be given intravenously (into the vein) by infusion. It is delivered directly into the bloodstream via the blood vessel.
Your doctor or nurse will administer the injection for you.
Ensure that you keep all appointments with your doctor so that you do not miss any doses. Your doctor also needs to regularly monitor your response to Paclitaxel.
If you miss an appointment or miss an injection, alert your doctor or nurse. A replacement appointment or injection should be given as soon as possible.
Alert your doctor if you have the following conditions:
- white blood cells level that is too low
- severe liver disease
as Paclitaxel may not be suitable for you.
Do not use this medicine if you ever had an allergic reaction (rashes, breathlessness, swollen eyes) to similar medicines such as docetaxel.
Do not breastfeed while you are being treated with this medicine.
Inform your doctor if you have the following conditions:
- neuropathy (nerve damage causing weakness, pain and numbness in hands and feet)
- liver disease
- heart problems
Let your doctor know if you are pregnant. It is important that you do not get pregnant while being treated with Paclitaxel. You may wish to discuss birth control methods with your doctor or pharmacist.
Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before giving Paclitaxel to an elderly person. Elderly people may be more sensitive to the side effects.
Keep your appointments with your doctor. Your doctor needs to monitor your condition and check your response to the medication regularly.
For as long as you are taking this medicine, you may need to have regular blood tests to check your body’s response to the medicine. Your doctor will advise you about how often you need to have blood tests.
Paclitaxel may cause drowsiness, dizziness or tiredness. If affected, do not drive or take part in any activity in which you need to be alert.
Other side effects include any of the following: headache, feeling unwell, constipation, vomiting, diarrhoea, blurred vision, cough, redness of the face and eye, stomach pain, fever, changes in nail color, joint, muscle and back pain, loss of appetite, swelling of the mouth, hair loss, increased thirst, dry mouth, difficulty in breathing, numbing, prickling or tingling sensation in the feet or hands, fast, slow or irregular heartbeat.
Some side effects may need immediate medical help. Alert your doctor quickly if you experience any of the following:
- shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles, legs or feet
- signs of infections e.g. fever, chills
- swelling, soreness or pain in the mouth or throat
If you develop rashes, breathlessness, swollen mouth or eyes, stop using Paclitaxel and inform your doctor quickly. These could be signs of an allergic reaction.
This medicine will cause the level of your red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets to drop.
Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body. A fall in the level of red blood cells may make you feel tired and worn out.
White blood cells help your body to fight infections. A fall in the level of your white blood cells may put you at higher risk for infections, such as coughs, colds and flu, which may lead to more serious infections. Avoid crowded places and people who are sick. Alert your doctor if you have a fever, or a cough or flu that does not go away.
Platelets help your blood to clot when there is a cut in the skin. A fall in the level of your platelets may put you at risk of bleeding more than usual. Do not take part in activities where you may fall or get injured, such as contact sports. Alert your doctor if you get any unusual bruising (large bruises or several bruises, especially if the bruises appeared on their own) or bleeding that takes a long time to stop (for example, too much bleeding when you floss or brush your teeth).
Inform your doctor if any of these side effects do not go away or are severe, or if you experience other side effects.
Inform your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any of these medicines:
- medicines to treat fungal infection e.g. ketoconazole
- antibiotic e.g. erythromycin
- medicines to treat depression e.g. fluoxetine
- blood-thinning medicines e.g. clopidogrel
- medicines for HIV infection e.g. ritonavir, efavirenz
- medicines for fits or seizures e.g. carbamazepine, phenytoin
- cimetidine (medicine for lowering stomach acid)
- other anti-cancer medicines e.g. cisplatin, doxorubicin
This list does not include all medicines that may interact with Paclitaxel.
Always notify your doctor and pharmacist if you are taking any other medicines, including herbal tonics such as traditional Chinese medicines, supplements and medicines that you buy without a prescription.
Store in a cool, dry place away from the reach of children.
Protect from light.
Medicines must not be used past the expiry date.
As this is a cancer medicine, always return any unused or expired vials to the clinic, hospital or pharmacy for disposal. Do not throw it away in the household waste.