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Brand names:

Abraxane®, Taxol®

Other names:


Often used for:

Breast cancer, Ovarian cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Lung cancer, relapsed Germ cell tumors

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What is paclitaxel?

Paclitaxel is a type of chemotherapy. It works by slowing or stopping the growth of cells.

Paclitaxel is usually given as an infusion once every 3 weeks. Patients will be monitored to watch for infusion-related side effects. Before treatment, patients will be given medicines to help prevent an allergic reaction.

Paclitaxel can cause tissue damage if it leaks from the vein. Patients may have irritation and skin damage at the IV site. Let a caregiver know if there is burning during administration.

Patients will have regular blood draws to check blood counts and monitor liver and kidney function.

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Given as a liquid into a vein by IV

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Possible side effects

  • Low blood counts (may cause increased risk of infection, bleeding, anemia and/or fatigue)
  • Nausea or vomiting (usually mild)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Tingling of the hands or feet (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Fluid retention including swelling and weight gain
  • Mouth sores
  • Changes in taste
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Changes in nails
  • Skin irritation at the IV site
  • Skin rash
  • Vision changes
  • Liver problems

Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include: hives, rash, itching, difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, low blood pressure

Not all patients who take paclitaxel will experience these side effects. Common side effects are in bold, but there may be others. Please report all suspected side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.

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Possible late effects

Some patients may experience long-term or late effects of treatment that may continue or develop months or years after treatment ends. Possible late effects due to paclitaxel include:

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Tips for families

Be sure to discuss these and other recommendations with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Patients are usually given dexamethasone, diphenhydramine, and cimetidine, famotidine, or ranitidine before receiving the paclitaxel infusion.
  • Some docetaxel formulas contain alcohol and may cause drowsiness, dizziness, or confusion. Patients should not drive or do anything that could be dangerous immediately after receiving the infusion.
  • While taking this medicine, do not eat grapefruit or Seville (bitter) oranges or drink juice or beverages containing grapefruit or Seville orange.
  • Sexually active patients should take steps to prevent pregnancy during treatment and for a period of time after completion of therapy.
  • Patients should tell their doctor if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Caregivers should follow instructions to avoid contact with patient body fluids, which can contain the drug for 48 hours after it is given.
  • This medication may interfere with vaccines. Ask your healthcare provider before getting vaccines while receiving this medication.