What paclitaxel is and what it is used for?
- Paclitaxel is a plant alkaloid derived from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree. Paclitaxel inhibits the action of proteins called microtubules for cell division, thus stopping cancer cells from separating into two new cells, eventually causing cell death.
- Paclitaxel can be given alone or in combination with other medicines to treat many cancers, including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma, and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This drug may also be used to treat other cancers, as determined by your doctor.
How paclitaxel is given?
- Paclitaxel is given as a slow infusion into the vein.The infusion time depends on the treatment plan.
What should I know while receiving paclitaxel?
- If paclitaxel leaks out of the vein at the injection site and into nearby tissue, it can cause severe tissue damage and blistering. Tell your nurse right away if you notice swelling, pain, or redness at the injection site when you are receiving paclitaxel.
- Allergic reactions may occur during or shortly after an infusion, causing a skin rash, muscle tension, chest pain, feeling breathless, swelling or feeling hot. Tell your nurse right away if you feel unwell during the infusion.
- Do not use paclitaxel when you are pregnant. Men and women should use effective contraception during treatment and for at least 6 months after the treatment ends.
- Do not breastfeed and for 2 weeks after the last dose.
- Do not receive any kind of vaccination without doctor's approval.
- Paclitaxel may cause fertility problems. You can talk to your doctor about methods of preserving fertility before treatment.
- Your blood pressure may be lower than normal while you are receiving paclitaxel. Tell your doctor if you have problems with blood pressure before starting paclitaxel treatment. Let your nurse know if you feel dizzy or light-headed during the infusion.
- You will have regular blood tests to make sure you have enough blood cells and have adequate organ functions to receive paclitaxel. The timing and dosing of your treatment may be changed based on the test results or side effects.
- The existing health problems may affect the use of paclitaxel. You should let your doctor know if you have allergic to castor oil or if you have any other medical problems, especially if you have liver or heart problems.
- There are many drugs may affect how paclitaxel works. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Common side effects
- Low white blood cell count
You may have a higher risk of getting infections. Try to stay away from crowds and wash hands often. Tell your doctor right away if you have repeated fevers, coughing, stuffy nose, a painful urination or wound that becomes red and swollen.
- Low red blood cell count
You may look pale and get tired more easily. Let your doctor know if you experience any difficulty breathing or dizziness when changing positions.
- Low platelet count
You may have a higher risk of bleeding. Let your doctor know if you find red or purple dots on the skin, bleeding from the nose or gums, or any bruising or bleeding that you cannot explain.
- Nausea and vomiting
Medicines may be given before the treatment to prevent it happening. Eating and drinking often in small amounts may reduce the discomfort.
- Hair loss
It may begin 2-3 weeks after your first treatment. Your hair will usually grow back after treatment has finished.
Talk to your doctor and ask for advice. Drinking plenty of water and dietary changes can improve diarrhea.
- Mouth sores
Your doctor can give you medicines that help you ease the discomfort. Good mouth care will help prevent mouth sores.
- Muscle or joint pain
Talk to the doctor if the pain is bothering you, they can give you medicine to help ease pain.
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
This may last as long as therapy is continued and may become more severe. The symptoms usually get better slowly after treatment has ended, but for some people it never goes away completely. Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms and protect areas where sensation is decreased.
Less common side effects
- Swelling of lower legs or hands
Tell your doctor if your hands, arms, legs, or feet feel puffy or tender. The doctor may give medicines to reduce your symptoms and suggest ways to prevent fluid buildup.
- Weakness and fatigue
Try to pace yourself and rest as much as possible. Seek medical advice if fatigue does not go away when you rest and sleep.
- Changes to heart rate
Contact a doctor right away if you notice that you have an abnormal heartbeat or have pain or tightness in your chest. It is important to get them checked by a doctor.
- Changes in liver function
This is usually mild and may return to normal after treatment has ended. Seek medical help right away if you have yellowing of the skin or eyes, dark or brown urine, or pain in abdomen.
- Alcohol and cigarettes may interfere with certain medicines or worsen side effects from chemotherapy treatment. It is wise to avoid alcohol and cigarettes during cancer treatment. If you have any problem about drinking alcohol and smoking, you should check with your doctor.
- Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking beverages containing grapefruit. This is because grapefruits can affect how paclitaxel works and can worsen the side effects.
- Avoid the use of St. John's Wort as it may make paclitaxel less effective.
- Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water every day can help make your recovery a smoother process.