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Docetaxel (Taxotere)

Find out what docetaxel is, how you have it, and other important information about having docetaxel.

Docetaxel is also known by its brand name, Taxotere. It is a treatment for:

  • breast cancer
  • lung cancer
  • head and neck cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • stomach cancer

You may also have it as part of trials for other types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, cervical cancer and bladder cancers.

How docetaxel works

It works by stopping the cancer cells from separating into 2 new cells, so it blocks the growth of cancer.

How you have docetaxel

You have docetaxel into your bloodstream.

Into your bloodstream

You have the treatment through a drip into your arm. A nurse puts a small tube (a cannula) into one of your veins and connects the drip to it.

You might need a central line. This is a long plastic tube that gives the drugs into a large vein, either in your chest or through a vein in your arm. It stays in while you’re having treatment, which may be for a few months.

When you have it

Each treatment takes about an hour and you have one every 1 to 3 weeks.

Preventing allergic reactions

Docetaxel can cause an allergic reaction. To try to prevent this, your doctor or nurse will give you steroid tablets to take.  You usually take them for 3 days, starting the day before each treatment.

You can also take it a few hours before your treatment if you have prostate cancer. Your doctor can tell you how often you should take the steroids. 

Tests during treatment

You have blood tests before starting treatment and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

Important information

Other medicines, food and drink

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Don't eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while having treatment with docetaxel as it can make the side effects worse.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Men need to continue using contraception for 6 months after treatment ends.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.

Fertility

You may not be able to become pregnant or father a child after treatment with this drug. Talk to your doctor before starting treatment if you think you may want to have a baby in the future. Men may be able to store sperm before starting treatment. Women may be able to store eggs or ovarian tissue but this is rare.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

Immunisations

Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.

In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and shingles vaccine (Zostavax).

You can:

  • have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
  • have the flu vaccine
  • be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections

Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, avoid changing their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination if possible. Or wear disposable gloves and wash your hands well afterwards.

You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.

More information about this treatment

We haven't listed all the very rare side effects of this treatment. For further information see the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have that isn’t listed here to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help

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