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Understanding Lung Cancer Medications (cont.)

Taxanes

Taxanes include paclitaxel (Taxol) and docetaxel (Taxotere).

  • Who should not use these medications: Persons with the following conditions should not use taxanes:

    • Allergy to taxanes or the IV solution (Cremophor EL)


    • Extremely low white blood cell or platelet counts 

  • Use: Taxanes are given by IV injection. Because taxanes are more likely to cause side effects, such as low blood pressure, shortness of breath, or faintness, a doctor gives medications to prevent such symptoms. Drugs used to prevent the side effects of taxanes include corticosteroids, H2 antagonists (ranitidine [Zantac], famotidine [Pepcid]), and antihistamines (diphenhydramine [Benadryl]). 


  • Drug or food interactions: The risk of taxanes further reducing blood cell counts and causing anemia or bleeding may increase when they are used with other chemotherapy drugs. The herbal antidepressant drug St. John’s wort may decrease the effectiveness of taxanes. Phenytoin (Dilantin) or carbamazepine (Tegretol) may also decrease the effectiveness of taxanes.


  • Side effects: Taxanes may cause a person to bleed or to develop infections more easily. A doctor will check blood and urine for abnormalities that may be caused by these drugs.

    • A doctor should be contacted immediately if any of the following side effects occur: 

      • Lightheadedness or faintness


      • Fast or irregular heartbeat   


      • Wheezing or trouble breathing


      • Uncontrolled nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea


      • Unexplained fever, chills, or sore throat


      • Unusual bleeding or bruising


      • Blood in stools or black stools 


    • Other side effects include the following:  

      • Abnormal liver function


      • Hair loss


      • Muscle or bone pain


      • Mild numbness or tingling in the feet or hands


      • Nausea and vomiting

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