This leaflet provides information on a course of chemotherapy called paclitaxel. Paclitaxel is also known as Taxol. The leaflet will explain what this is and when and how it will be given. It will also tell you about common side effects that you may experience. Contact telephone numbers and details of how to obtain further information on Taxol are given at the end of the leaflet.
This leaflet should be read alongside the ‘General information for patients receiving chemotherapy’ leaflet. If you haven’t received this leaflet please ask your nurse for a copy.
What is Taxol chemotherapy?
Taxol is a chemotherapy drug which originates from the bark of the European Yew tree.
Why am I having Taxol chemotherapy?
Your doctor has recommended this chemotherapy because it has been found to be particularly effective in treating your type of cancer.
How often will I receive my chemotherapy?
For this treatment to be most effective it will be given at specific time intervals. These are known as cycles.
This treatment can be given in 3 different ways. These are explained below. Your nurse or doctor will tell you which way your treatment will be given.
There are 2 ways of receiving this treatment:
3 weekly treatment.
You will be given Taxol once every 3 weeks. It is usual to have up to 6 cycles. Your doctor will discuss with you how many cycles you will receive.
How often will I see the specialist team?
You will see the specialist team every 3 to 4 weeks. We will check how you are feeling and discuss any problems you may have. This is so we can check how the chemotherapy is affecting you. You will have blood tests before each chemotherapy treatment If your blood results are satisfactory, your chemotherapy will be prescribed.
How will my chemotherapy be given?
Your chemotherapy is given through a drip into a vein in the back of your hand or arm. Alternatively, if needed it may be suggested that a fine tube called a PICC is inserted into a large vein in your upper arm. This will remain in place throughout the course of your treatment. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this further with you if needed. We have a leaflet that tells you more about PICC lines, if required.
Before your chemotherapy we will give you medication through your drip which reduces the risks of being sick or developing an allergic reaction to your chemotherapy.
How long will I be in the hospital?
Your chemotherapy appointment will be on a different day to your clinic appointment. Your treatment will be given on one of the day case treatment areas. Please allow an extra 30 minutes for your first treatment. Treatment times vary:
You are welcome to bring someone to stay with you during your treatment. Space is limited in the waiting areas and treatment room so there is not usually room for more than one person. Treatment areas are not suitable for young children.
What are the possible side effects?
There are a number of possible side effects which can occur with this chemotherapy. The doctors, nurses and pharmacists can give you advice or answer any questions you may have.
For patients having weekly treatment: most patients experience hair thinning. However for some patients hair thinning may be considerable, and you may lose your hair completely.
For patients having three weekly treatment: unfortunately you will lose your hair.
Any hair loss you experience is only temporary. Your hair will grow back when your treatment has finished. A method known as ‘scalp cooling’ or ‘cold capping’ can sometimes be used to prevent hair loss.
We can arrange a wig if you would like one. If you want to know more about scalp cooling or wigs please speak to your nurse. We have a leaflet that tells you more about coping with hair loss. Please ask your nurse for a copy.
Nausea and vomiting are uncommon these days as we will give you anti-sickness medicines which are usually extremely effective. If you are sick more than once in 24 hours despite taking regular anti-sickness medicine when you are at home after your chemotherapy treatment, contact Velindre Cancer Centre for advice. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
You are at an increased risk of picking up infections because your white blood cells which help fight infections can be reduced by this treatment.
If you develop an infection whilst your white blood cells are low, you are at risk of sepsis, this can be life threatening.
Contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately if you develop any signs of infection, for example flu like symptoms or a temperature above 37.5°centigrade. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Diarrhoea is not common with this chemotherapy. However, if you have four or more bowel movements in 24 hours above what is normal for you please contact Velindre Cancer Centre immediately. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Tiredness and fatigue
Chemotherapy can make you feel more tired than usual. It is important to listen to your body and rest if you need to, but carry out your normal activities if you feel able. Some people find it beneficial to take gentle exercise as well as taking rest.
Effects on the nerves of your hands and feet
Taxol can affect the nerves of your hands and feet. This may lead to a loss of sensation, tingling or pins and needles. If this occurs please tell your doctor or nurse at your next clinic visit as we may need to change your treatment.
These symptoms may increase as you have more cycles of chemotherapy. If you have these symptoms, it is important to be extra careful when exposing your hands and feet to hot or cold temperatures. These symptoms usually go away within a few months of finishing your treatment.
Skin and tissue damage
Some chemotherapy drugs may damage the skin and surrounding area if they leak outside of your vein. This is known as extravasation. It is extremely rare but it is important that you tell us immediately if you notice any swelling, pain or burning at the site of the drip. If this occurs whilst the chemotherapy is being given, tell your nurse. If you notice pain, swelling or redness when you’re at home please contact us immediately the telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Myalgia (pain in the muscles)
Some patients may experience myalgia which is muscle or joint pain. This can sometimes be severe but will only last for a few days. If you already have painkillers at home you may find they relieve the pain. If this does not work please contact Velindre Cancer Centre. The telephone number is at the end of the leaflet.
Alcohol content of paclitaxel
Paclitaxel contains alcohol. If having alcohol is a problem for you, tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. It is possible that your blood alcohol level may be above the legal limit after you have paclitaxel. Do not drive or operate machinery for a few hours after having this treatment, even if you feel okay
Allergic type reaction
A small number of patients experience an allergic type of reaction to Taxol. If this occurs you may feel hot or flushed, itchy, light-headed or generally unwell whilst receiving your chemotherapy. This can be easily treated. Please tell your nurse immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
A small number of patients develop an itchy rash between treatments with Taxol. If this occurs it is important that you tell your doctor or nurse at your next clinic appointment.
Women sometimes find that chemotherapy treatment affects their periods. They could become heavier, lighter or even stop altogether.
It is important you do not become pregnant or father a child whilst having chemotherapy treatment as chemotherapy could damage the unborn baby. Breastfeeding is not recommended.
This chemotherapy can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. It is best to avoid strong sunlight and wear a hat and use a sun block when in the sun.
Sometimes cancer drugs can have very serious side effects which rarely can be life threatening. It is important to inform Velindre cancer centre if you are concerned about any side-effects.
A diagnosis of cancer can increase your risk of developing a blood clot (thrombosis), and having cancer treatment may increase this risk further. It is important to tell your doctor immediately if you have symptoms such as pain, redness and swelling in your leg, or breathlessness and chest pain.
Blood clots can be very serious. However, most clots can usually be successfully treated with drugs to thin the blood. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.
Manufacturer’s patient information leaflets
Velindre leaflets provide information about very common and commonly reported side-effects (we are unable to list all of the common side effects), for more information regarding these and the less common side-effects please refer to the manufacturers patient information leaflets, obtained from Velindre pharmacy and/or on the internet at www.medicines.org.uk. Sometimes patients may find these leaflets difficult to read however. Please ask if you would like a copy from your doctor or from Velindre pharmacy
Contact telephone numbers
Velindre Cancer Centre 029 2061 5888
Ask for the treatment helpline if you are unwell at home and need immediate advice at any time of the day or night. For example you should phone if you:
Pharmacy department 029 2061 5888 ext 6223
Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm for queries about your medicines
Tenovus freephone 0808 808 1010
cancer support line
This leaflet was written by health professionals. The information contained in this leaflet is evidence based. It has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients. It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.