Side Effects of Taxol Chemotherapy

Taxol is the brand name for the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel, and is typically used to treat breast, prostate, ovarian and lung cancers and Kaposi's sarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society 1. The drug is classified as a plant alkaloid or taxane drug, and may cause a multitude of side effects. The types of side effects depend on the dosage given and the regimen chosen, and many side effects are temporary and are easily managed.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects that occur in more than 30 percent of patients on Taxol include low white and red blood cell counts and platelet counts (which can cause bruising and anemia and put you at higher risk for infections), mild nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and temporary joint and muscle pain. Peripheral neuropathy may occur, which can include tingling, burning and numbness in your hands and feet.

Less Common Side Effects

Other side effects that occur less frequently are discoloration of your fingernails, foot or ankle swelling, and elevated liver function blood tests (this is typically temporary and goes back to normal once treatment has ended).

Serious Side Effects and Possible Complications

Taxol can cause elevated liver function tests, and though this may be temporary, your doctor will continue to monitor your levels if the changes are too drastic. Heart rhythm may also be affected and can be serious in some people, and any changes in heartbeat or if you have chest pain or trouble breathing should be reported to your health-care team. Because Taxol can interfere with your immune system's functioning, any vaccinations should be given after treatment has ended, as these can cause serious infections or possibly be ineffective, according to the American Cancer Society. Other general side effects that should be reported as soon as possible to your health-care team include difficulty breathing, yellowing of the skin and eyes, blood in your stools and fever of 100.5 Fahrenheit or higher.