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PC (paclitaxel and carboplatin, CarboTaxol)

This page tells you about the chemotherapy drug combination of carboplatin and paclitaxel (Taxol). It is often called CarboTaxol. There is information about

 

About PC

PC is made up of the chemotherapy drugs

It is a treatment for ovarian cancer and non small cell lung cancer that has spread. The links above take you to pages about the side effects of each individual drug.

 

How you have PC

You have paclitaxel and carboplatin as fluids into a vein (drips) once every 3 weeks. You may have this treatment 6 or 8 times. This means it will take between 5 and 6 months to finish all your chemotherapy treatment.

You may have the drugs through a thin, short tube (a cannula) put into a vein in your arm each time you have treatment. Or you may have them through a central line, a portacath or a PICC line. These are long, plastic tubes that give the drug directly into a large vein in your chest. You have the tube put in just before your course of treatment starts and it stays in place as long as you need it.

The side effects of a combination of drugs are usually a mixture of the side effects of each drug. The combination of drugs may increase or decrease your chance of getting each side effect. Or it may change the severity. The side effects associated with CarboTaxol chemotherapy are listed below. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect. Or for general information you can go to the cancer drugs side effects section.

 

Common side effects

More than 10 in every 100 people have one or more of the side effects listed below.

A temporary drop in the number of blood cells made by the bone marrow, causing

  • An increased risk of getting an infection from a drop in white blood cells – it is harder to fight infections and you can become very ill. You may have headaches, aching muscles, a cough, sore throat, pain passing urine or feel cold and shivery
  • Tiredness and breathlessness due to a drop in red blood cells (anaemia) – you may need a blood transfusion
  • Bruising more easily due to a drop in platelets – you may have nosebleeds, bleeding gums after brushing your teeth, or lots of tiny red spots or bruises on your arms or legs (known as petechia)

Some of these side effects can be life threatening, particularly infections. Contact your doctor or nurse if you have any of these effects. Your doctor will check your blood counts regularly to see how well your bone marrow is working.

Other common side effects include

  • Tiredness (fatigue) during and after treatment – most people find their energy levels are back to normal within 6 months to a year
  • Feeling or being sick affects most people but can usually be well controlled with anti sickness medicines
  • Paclitaxel can cause aching joints and muscles in up to 6 out of 10 people (60%) treated
  • About 1 in 6 people (16%) have immediate minor reactions to paclitaxel, such as becoming flushed or developing a rash
  • Hair loss 
  • Carboplatin can cause kidney damage – you will have blood tests before your treatment to check that your kidneys are able to cope with the drug
  • Mouth sores and ulcers
  • Diarrhoea
  • Numbness and tingling in fingers and toes can cause difficulty with fiddly things such as doing up buttons – this starts within a few days or weeks and usually goes within a few months of finishing treatment
  • Low blood pressure affects more than 1 in 10 people (10%) having paclitaxel
  • Liver changes that are very mild and unlikely to cause symptoms – the liver will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment ends, but you will have regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working
  • Loss of fertility – we don’t know exactly how this drug affects fertility so do talk with your doctor before starting treatment if having a baby is important to you
  • Women may stop having periods (amenorrhoea) – this may only be temporary
 

Occasional side effects

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these.

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of taste or a metallic taste in your mouth
  • Carboplatin may affect your ability to hear some high pitched sounds (this usually gets better on its own) and about 1 in 100 people (1%) have ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Slowing down of the heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Inflammation around the drip site – tell your doctor or chemotherapy nurse immediately if you notice any signs of redness, swelling or leaking at your drip site
 

Rare side effects

Some people have an allergic reaction while having paclitaxel and carboplatin, usually at the first or second treatment. This occurs in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). Let your treatment team know immediately if you have skin rashes, itching, feeling hot, shivering, going red in the face, feeling dizzy, a headache, shortness of breath, anxiety or a sudden need to pass urine.

 

Important points to remember

The side effects above may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment, or more side effects may develop as the course goes on. This depends on

  • How many times you've had the drug before
  • Your general health
  • The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
  • Other drugs you are having

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them.

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies – some drugs can react together.

These drugs may have a harmful effect on a developing baby. Talk to your doctor or nurse about contraception before having treatment if there is any chance that you or your partner could become pregnant.

Breastfeeding is not advisable during this treatment because the drugs may come through in the breast milk.

 

Immunisations and chemotherapy

You should not have immunisations with live vaccines while you are having chemotherapy or for at least 6 months afterwards. In the UK, these include rubella, mumps, measles (usually given together as MMR), BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).

You can have other vaccines, but they may not give you as much protection as usual until your immune system has fully recovered from your chemotherapy. It is safe to have the flu vaccine.

It is safe for you to be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections. There can be problems with vaccines you take by mouth (oral vaccines), but not many people in the UK have these now. So there is usually no problem in being with any baby or child who has recently had any vaccination in the UK. You might need to make sure that you aren't in contact with anyone who has had oral polio, cholera or typhoid vaccination recently, particularly if you live abroad.

 

More information about PC drugs

This page does not list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at www.medicines.org.uk.

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at www.mhra.gov.uk.

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Updated: 15 May 2013