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What is paclitaxel?

Paclitaxel (also called Taxol®) is an anticancer medicine. It is a clear, colorless to slightly yellow liquid given by vein (IV).

Paclitaxel can pose a health hazard to caregivers. All caregivers should take safety precautions while giving this drug. For 48 hours after this drug is given, the patient’s body fluids can contain the drug. During that 48-hour period, caregivers should follow safety guidelines when handling the patient’s vomit, blood, urine, and bowel movements, including diapers. These guidelines include wearing gloves when cleaning up body fluids. For a complete list of safety precautions, see “Do you know… Protecting caregivers from drug hazards.”

Possible side effects of paclitaxel


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Allergic reaction with symptoms of flushing, redness, rash, short of breath, low or high blood pressure, or increased heart rate
  • Irritated issue or skin damage at the IV site

Later (usually more than a day after treatment starts)

  • Low blood counts with a higher risk of infection, bleeding, and anemia
  • Hands and feet feel numb or tingle
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Swelling (retaining water)
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores
  • Low blood pressure
  • Changes in kidney function
  • Changes in liver function
  • Skin rash
  • Mild redness and tender skin at the injection site

These are the most common side effects, but there may be others. Please report all side effects to the doctor or nurse.

In case of a severe side effect or reaction, call the doctor, nurse, or pharmacist at 595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once the call is connected.

Special instructions for paclitaxel

  • To help prevent an allergic reaction to paclitaxel, the staff will give you medicines (sometimes called premeds) before you receive paclitaxel. These premeds usually include dexamethasone, diphenhydramine, and ranitidine. You may take the dexamethasone by mouth 12 to 24 hours before receiving paclitaxel. Usually, the staff will give diphenhydramine and ranitidine by IV just before the paclitaxel. Tell your doctor if you do not receive these medicines before you receive paclitaxel.
  • If you have trouble breathing, develop a rash or itching, or feel light-headed while you are receiving paclitaxel, tell your nurse.
  • If you begin having pain, redness, or swelling at your IV site, tell the nurse right away.
  • Before you receive paclitaxel, tell your doctor if you have had an allergic reaction to cyclosporine or teniposide. If so, you may have an increased chance of having an allergic reaction to paclitaxel.
  • The staff will draw blood to check blood counts and to check liver and kidney function while you are treated with paclitaxel.
  • Some medicines may make the side effects of paclitaxel worse. Tell your doctor if you are taking any other medicines while receiving paclitaxel.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).