Find out what paclitaxel is, how you have it and other important information about having paclitaxel.
Paclitaxel is a chemotherapy drug. It is a treatment for many different types of cancer. It is also called Taxol.
How paclitaxel works
Paclitaxel works by stopping cancer cells from separating into two new cells. This blocks the growth of the cancer.
How you have paclitaxel
You usually have paclitaxel as cycles of treatment. You might have it on its own or with other chemotherapy drugs.
You have paclitaxel as a drip into your bloodstream (intravenously). Each treatment takes either 1 hour, 3 hours or 24 hours.
Into your bloodstream
You can have it through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment.
You can also have it through long lines: a central line, a PICC line or a portacath.
These are long, plastic tubes that give the drugs into a large vein in your chest. The tube stays in place throughout the course of treatment.
When you have treatment
You might have paclitaxel every week or every 2 or 3 weeks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through in your breast milk.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
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).
- 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.
Some brands of this drug contain alcohol (equal to half a glass of wine or half a pint of beer) and may make you drowsy or dizzy, especially if you have drunk alcohol. Don't operate machinery or drive if you feel drowsy.
More information about this treatment
For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.