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About Paclitaxel

Paclitaxel is a plant alkaloid that was developed from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree. Paclitaxel works by disrupting the micro tubular network essential for cell division and other normal cellular functions, eventually causing cell death.


How to Take Paclitaxel

Paclitaxel is given by intravenous (IV, into a vein) infusion weekly or every 3 weeks. You will be given several medications before the infusion to prevent an allergic reaction. Even when carefully and correctly administered by trained personnel, this drug may cause a feeling of burning and pain. There is a risk that this medication may leak out of the vein at the injection site, resulting in tissue damage that can be severe. If the area of injection becomes red, swollen, or painful at any time during or after the injection, notify your care team immediately. Do not apply anything to the site unless instructed by your care team.

Paclitaxel can cause low or high blood pressure or a low heart rate. Your nurse will monitor your blood pressure and heart rate during the infusion. 

Possible Side Effects of Paclitaxel 

These are some of the most common or important side effects:

Infusion Reactions

Infection and Low White Blood Cell Count (Leukopenia or Neutropenia)

Nausea and/or Vomiting

Diarrhea

Mouth Ulcers (Mucositis)

Muscle or Joint Pain/Aches and Headache

Less common, but important side effects can include:

Heart Problems

This medication can cause slow or abnormal heartbeats, bradycardia and changes in your blood pressure. Notify your oncology care team right away if you feel abnormal heartbeats, experience vision changes or if you feel dizzy or faint.

Reproductive Concerns

Exposure of an unborn child to this medication could cause birth defects, so you should not become pregnant or father a child while on this medication. Effective birth control is necessary during treatment. Even if your menstrual cycle stops or you believe you are not producing sperm, you could still be fertile and conceive. You should consult with your healthcare team before breastfeeding while receiving this medication.

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