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Paclitaxel (Systemic)

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Paclitaxel (Systemic)

US Brand Names

• Taxol

Canadian Brand Names

• Taxol


Paclitaxel (PAK-li-tax-el) belongs to the group of medicines called antineoplastics. It is used to treat cancer of the ovaries, breast, certain types of lung cancer, and a cancer of the skin and mucous membranes more commonly found in patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It may also be used to treat other kinds of cancer, as determined by your doctor.

Paclitaxel interferes with the growth of cancer cells, which are eventually destroyed. Since the growth of normal body cells may also be affected by paclitaxel, other effects will also occur. Some of these may be serious and must be reported to your doctor. Other effects may not be serious but may cause concern. Some effects may not occur until months or years after the medicine is used.

Before you begin treatment with paclitaxel, you and your doctor should talk about the good this medicine will do as well as the risks of using it.

Paclitaxel is to be administered only by or under the immediate supervision of your doctor. It is available in the following dosage form:


    • Injection (U.S. and Canada)

Special Considerations

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For paclitaxel, the following should be considered:


Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to paclitaxel.


Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or if you intend to become pregnant. Studies in rats and rabbits have shown that paclitaxel causes miscarriages and deaths of the fetus, as well as problems in the mother.

Be sure that you have discussed this with your doctor before taking this medicine. It is best to use some kind of birth control while you are receiving paclitaxel. Tell your doctor right away if you think you have become pregnant while receiving paclitaxel.


It is not known whether paclitaxel passes into breast milk. However, because this medicine may cause serious side effects, breast-feeding is generally not recommended while you are receiving it.


There is no specific information comparing use of paclitaxel in children with use in other age groups.

Older adults

This medicine has been tested in a limited number of patients and has not been shown to cause different side effects or problems in older people than it does in younger adults.

Other medicines

Although certain medicines should not be used together at all, in other cases two different medicines may be used together even if an interaction might occur. In these cases, your doctor may want to change the dose, or other precautions may be necessary. When you are receiving paclitaxel, it is especially important that your health care professional know if you are taking any of the following:

    • Amphotericin B by injection (e.g., Fungizone) or

    • Antithyroid agents (medicine for overactive thyroid) or

    • Azathioprine (e.g., Imuran) or

    • Chloramphenicol (e.g., Chloromycetin) or

    • Colchicine or

    • Flucytosine (e.g., Ancobon) or

    • Ganciclovir (e.g., Cytovene) or

    • Interferon (e.g., Intron A, Roferon-A) or

    • Plicamycin (e.g., Mithracin) or

    • Zidovudine (e.g., AZT, Retrovir) or

    • If you have ever been treated with x-rays or cancer medicines-Paclitaxel may increase the effects of these medicines or radiation therapy on the blood

Other medical problems

The presence of other medical problems may affect the use of paclitaxel. Make sure you tell your doctor if you have any other medical problems, especially:

    • Chickenpox (including recent exposure) or

    • Herpes zoster (shingles)-Risk of severe disease affecting other parts of the body

    • Heart rhythm problems-May be made worse by paclitaxel

    • Infection-Paclitaxel may decrease your body's ability to fight infection


This medicine often causes nausea and vomiting, which is usually mild. However, it is very important that you continue to receive the medicine even if you begin to feel ill. Ask your health care professional for ways to lessen these effects.


The dose of paclitaxel will be different for different patients. The dose that is used may depend on a number of things, including what the medicine is being used for, the patient's size, and whether or not other medicines are also being taken. If you are receiving paclitaxel at home, follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label . If you have any questions about the proper dose of paclitaxel, ask your doctor.


It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly and to check for unwanted effects.

While you are being treated with paclitaxel, and after you stop treatment with it, do not have any immunizations (vaccinations) without your doctor's approval . Paclitaxel may lower your body's resistance and there is a chance you might get the infection the immunization is meant to prevent. In addition, other persons living in your household should not take oral polio vaccine since there is a chance they could pass the polio virus on to you. Also, avoid persons who have taken oral polio vaccine within the last several months. Do not get close to them and do not stay in the same room with them for very long. If you cannot take these precautions, you should consider wearing a protective face mask that covers the nose and mouth.

Paclitaxel can temporarily lower the number of white blood cells in your blood, increasing the chance of getting an infection. It can also lower the number of platelets, which are necessary for proper blood clotting. If this occurs, there are certain precautions you can take, especially when your blood count is low, to reduce the risk of infection or bleeding:

    • If you can, avoid people with infections. Check with your doctor immediately if you think you are getting an infection or if you get a fever or chills, cough or hoarseness, lower back or side pain, or painful or difficult urination.

    • Check with your doctor immediately if you notice any unusual bleeding or bruising; black, tarry stools; blood in urine or stools; or pinpoint red spots on your skin.

    • Be careful when using a regular toothbrush, dental floss, or toothpick. Your medical doctor, dentist, or nurse may recommend other ways to clean your teeth and gums. Check with your medical doctor before having any dental work done.

    • Do not touch your eyes or the inside of your nose unless you have just washed your hands and have not touched anything else in the meantime.

    • Be careful not to cut yourself when you are using sharp objects such as a safety razor or fingernail or toenail cutters.

    • Avoid contact sports or other situations where bruising or injury could occur.

Side Effects

Along with its needed effects, a medicine may cause some unwanted effects. Some side effects will have signs or symptoms that you can see or feel. Your doctor may watch for others by doing certain tests.

Also, because of the way these medicines act on the body, there is a chance that they might cause other unwanted effects that may not occur until months or years after the medicine is used. These delayed effects may include certain types of cancer. Discuss these possible effects with your doctor.

Check with your doctor immediately if any of the following side effects occur:

Less common

Black, tarry stools; blood in urine or stools; pinpoint red spots on skin; unusual bleeding or bruising.


Shortness of breath (severe); skin reaction (severe).

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

More common

Cough or hoarseness accompanied by fever or chills; fever or chills; flushing of face; lower back or side pain accompanied by fever or chills; painful or difficult urination accompanied by fever or chills; shortness of breath; skin rash or itching.


Pain or redness at place of injection; sores in mouth and on lips (usually get better within 7 days after treatment).

This medicine may also cause the following side effects that your doctor will watch out for:

More common

Anemia; low platelet count in blood; low white blood cell count.

Less common

Effects on liver; low blood pressure; slow heartbeat.

Other side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention. These side effects may go away during treatment as your body adjusts to the medicine. Also, your health care professional may be able to tell you about ways to prevent or reduce some of these side effects. Check with your health care professional if any of the following side effects continue or are bothersome or if you have any questions about them:

More common

Diarrhea; nausea and vomiting; numbness, burning, or tingling in hands or feet; pain in joints or muscles, especially in arms or legs (begins 2 to 3 days after treatment and may last up to 5 days).

This medicine usually causes a temporary and total loss of hair (including eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair) about 2 to 3 weeks after treatment begins. After treatment with paclitaxel has ended, normal hair growth should return.

Other side effects not listed above may also occur in some patients. If you notice any other effects, check with your doctor.

Additional Information

Once a medicine has been approved for marketing for a certain use, experience may show that it is also useful for other medical problems. Although these uses are not included in product labeling, paclitaxel is used in certain patients with the following medical conditions:

    • Cancer of the bladder

    • Cancer of the cervix

    • Cancer of the endometrium

    • Cancer of the fallopian tube or lining of the abdomen (spreading from the ovary)

    • Cancer of the esophagus

    • Cancers of the head and neck

    • Small cell lung cancer (a certain type found in the tissues of the lungs)

    • Cancer of the stomach

    • Cancer of the prostate

    • Cancer of the testes

    • Cancer of unknown primary site

Other than the above information, there is no additional information relating to proper use, precautions, or side effects for these uses.

September 11, 2003

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