Also known as Paclitaxel, Taxol is a common chemotherapy drug used in the treatment of breast cancer. However, it is also commonly included in the cocktail of drugs used in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer as well as ovarian cancer. It is part of the Taxanes class of drugs, which also includes Abraxane and Depacetaxel, which are made from the Yew tree.

taxol cancer drugIn low doses, most patients have a strong tolerance for Taxol, with most only experiencing mild side effects. Taxol is administered with carboplatin as the Carbo Taxol therapy. The drugs are administered in fluid form via a drip once every three weeks and most patients are required to undergo this treatment six to eight times. When more than one drug is used for a treatment procedure, the side effects experienced by the parties are often a result of the interaction between the two drugs as well as the body. Some drug combinations may have more lethal side effects than the individual drugs while others may have less severe effects that the component drugs.

Since Taxol is only ever used with carboplatin, the side effects listed below are the effect of the Carbo Taxol therapy.

Common side effects

According to clinical studies, approximately one person out of every ten experiences one or more of the following side effects when treated with Taxol:

1. An occasional temporary decrease in the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow leading to:

  • Breathlessness and fatigue due to anemia brought about by low red blood cell count. Some patients may need a blood transfusion to counter this.
  • An increased susceptibility to infections due to a reduction in the levels of white blood cells. Fighting infections becomes harder and the patient can fall very ill. Physical side effects include headaches, fever, aching muscles, sore throat, coughing, shivery and pain when passing urine.
  • A decrease in the number of platelets in the blood stream also results in excessive bleeding from minor bruises, bleeding gums, nose bleeds and tiny bruises or red spots on the legs and arms (petechia).

Some of the side effect listed above are life threatening, especially the infections. It is important for the patient to inform his or her health care provider as soon as possible. More importantly, regular blood counts should be taken to know whether the bone marrow is functioning normally. Other common Taxol side effects are:

2. Fatigue (tiredness) during the course of the treatment. However, most people regain their normal energy levels withing six months of stopping the treatment.

3. Persistent nausea and vomiting, this can be controlled with anti-sickness medication.

4. Six out of ten people experience joint and muscle pains when undergoing cancer treatment with Taxol.

5. Hair loss

6. Carbo Taxol therapy can potentially cause kidney damage. Patients are normally taken through blood tests to establish whether their kidneys are strong enough to cope with the medication.

7. Mouth ulcers and sores

8. Diarrhea

9. Tingling sensations and numbness in toes and fingers This can make it harder for the patient to perform fiddly tasks like doing buttons, tying shoe laces etc. Most patients start experiencing a tingly f sensation within the first few days of undergoing the treatment and the effect persists for a few months after cessation of the treatment.

10. Decreased fertility Although it is not yet clear how Taxol causes loss of fertility in women, lowered fertility rates have been observed among women who have been treated with the drug. Women should consult with the health care provider if having a baby later on is important.

patient receives chemotherapyOccasional side effects

These side effects are observed in 1 out of every 100 or more people:

  • Problems hearing high pitched sound ( this goes away after some time) and tinnitus (persistent ringing sound in the ears).
  • Metallic taste in the mouth and or loss of taste
  • Reduced appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Inflammation at the drip site – The chemotherapy nurse or doctor should be informed immediately you notice swelling, redness or leaking around the drip zone.

Rare Taxol side effects

In very rare circumstances, a few people experience allergic reactions when being treated with Paclitaxel, usually at the 1st or 2nd treatment. The chemotherapy team should be informed immediately the patient notices itchiness, skin rashes, shivering, feeling hot, dizziness, hot flushes, shortness of breath, headache, and anxiety. Most people do not experience any allergic reaction to Taxol. The effects are confined to roughly one out of every hundred people on Carbo Taxol therapy.