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About Taxol

What is Taxol?

Taxol, or paclitaxel, is a drug used for treating certain women who have advanced breast or ovarian cancer. It is also used to treat other kinds of cancers. Paclitaxel is a compound that is extracted from the bark of the Pacific yew tree.

In December of 1992, the FDA approved Taxol for treatment of ovarian cancer that had not responded to standard chemotherapy. Later clinical trials showed that Taxol was also effective in treating advanced breast cancer. In April of 1994, the FDA approved Taxol for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer that did not respond to combination chemotherapy, or breast cancer that had recurred (come back) within 6 months after the completion of initial chemotherapy.

Taxol has also been approved for adjuvant treatment of breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes when given following a doxorubicin chemotherapy regimen.

Taxol is used to treat Kaposi sarcoma, too, as well as cancers of the head and neck, bladder, esophagus, lung, cervix, and endometrium.

Taxol is given as an infusion drip into the vein.

What are taxanes?

Taxanes are a group of medications commonly used to treat breast cancer. Taxol is a taxane and other taxanes include docetaxel (Taxotere) and paclitaxel (Abraxane). Taxanes stop cancer cells from growing by affecting cell structures called microtubules, which are important in cell function. 

What are possible side effects of Taxol?

Women who have the option of taking Taxol should talk to their doctor about the possible side effects, risks, and benefits. Everyone experiences side effects differently. Side effects of Taxol (and taxanes) may include:

  • Hair loss

  • Numbness, tingling, or burning of the fingers and toes, which is called peripheral neuropathy

  • Neutropenia. A decrease in white blood cells which may increase the risk of infections.

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Mouth sores

  • Aching or pain in joints and muscles

  • Diarrhea

  • Skin rash

  • Easy bleeding or bruising

  • Chest pain

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Tiredness and weakness

Talk to your doctor about what you should watch for and any side effects you notice. There are often things that can be done to control or reduce side effects.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Date Last Reviewed: 9/28/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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