Docetaxel (Taxotere ®) and carboplatin chemotherapy
Docetaxel and carboplatin chemotherapy can be used to treat non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and some other types of cancer.
This information should ideally be read with our general information about chemotherapy and the type of cancer you have.
The drugs that are usedBack to top
The treatment involves two drugs:
How docetaxel and carboplatin are givenBack to top
You have your treatment in the chemotherapy day unit or during a short stay in hospital. A chemotherapy nurse will give it to you. During treatment, you usually see a cancer doctor, a chemotherapy nurse or a specialist nurse. This is who we mean when we mention doctor or nurse in this information.
Before or on the day of treatment, a nurse or person trained to take blood (phlebotomist) will take a blood sample from you. This is to check that it is okay for you to have chemotherapy.
You will also see a doctor or nurse before you have chemotherapy. They will ask you about how you have been feeling. If your blood results are alright on the day of your treatment, the pharmacist will prepare your chemotherapy. Your nurse will tell you when your treatment is likely to be ready.
Your nurse will give you anti-sickness drugs. They may also give you a steroid as an injection into a vein or as tablets. They will give you the drugs and chemotherapy through one of the following:
- a short, thin tube that the nurse puts into a vein in your arm or hand (cannula)
- a fine tube that goes under the skin of your chest and into a vein close by (central line)
- a fine tube that is put into a vein in your arm and goes up into a vein in your chest (PICC line).
Docetaxel and carboplatin are both colourless fluids. You have them as drips (infusions). You have each drug separately and they usually take about an hour each. The drip is usually run through a pump, which gives you the treatment over a set time.
When docetaxel and carboplatin are being given
Some people might have side effects while they are having the chemotherapy.
Rarely, docetaxel may cause an allergic reaction during treatment. Your nurse will check you for this. If you have a reaction, they will treat it quickly. Signs of a reaction can include:
- a rash
- feeling itchy, flushed or short of breath
- swelling of your face or lips
- feeling dizzy
- having pain in your tummy, back or chest
- feeling unwell.
If you have any of these symptoms, tell your nurse straight away.
Usually, your nurse or doctor will give you steroid tablets to take at home the day before treatment. This is to reduce the chance of you having an allergic reaction. It’s important to take the steroid tablets as instructed.
Pain along the vein
If you have pain along your vein, tell your nurse straight away. They will check your drip site and slow the drip to ease the pain.
Your course of docetaxel and carboplatin
You have chemotherapy as a course of several sessions (cycles) of treatment over a few months. Each cycle of docetaxel and carboplatin takes 21 days (three weeks).
On the first day, you have docetaxel and carboplatin. You will then have a rest period with no chemotherapy for the next 20 days. At the end of this period, you start your second cycle of docetaxel and carboplatin. This is exactly the same as the first cycle.
You will have up to six cycles over 18 weeks. Your doctor or nurse will tell you the exact number of cycles you are likely to have.
Before you go home, the nurse or pharmacist will give you anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs to take. They may also give you anti-diarrhoea tablets if you are likely to need them. Take all your tablets exactly as your doctor or nurse has explained.
Possible side effects of docetaxel and carboplatinBack to top
We explain the most common side effects of your treatment here. But we don’t include all the rare ones that are unlikely to affect you.
You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are very unlikely to get all of them. Always tell your doctor or nurse about the side effects you have. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to help control some of them. It is very important to take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has explained. This means they will be more likely to work better for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. After your treatment is over, the side effects will gradually disappear.
Serious and life-threatening side effects
Sometimes cancer drugs can result in very serious side effects. Rarely, these side effects may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor and nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.
Contact the hospital
Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. You can call them if you feel unwell or need advice any time of the day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe
More information about these drugs
We’re not able to list every side effect for this treatment here, particularly the rarer ones. For more detailed information, you can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC).
Risk of infection
Docetaxel and carboplatin can reduce the number of white blood cells in your blood. This will make you more likely to get an infection. Your nurse can tell you when your number of white blood cells is likely to be lowest. When the number of white blood cells is low, it’s called neutropenia.
Contact the hospital straight away on the number you’ve been given if:
- your temperature goes over 37.5°C (99.5°F) or over 38°C (100.4°F), depending on the advice given by your chemotherapy team
- you suddenly feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
- you have symptoms of an infection – these can include feeling shaky, a sore throat, a cough, diarrhoea or needing to pass urine a lot.
Your number of white cells usually increases steadily and returns to normal before your next treatment. You will have a blood test before having more chemotherapy. If your number of white blood cells is still low, your doctor may delay your treatment for a short time.
Bruising and bleeding
Docetaxel and carboplatin can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot. If you have any bruising or bleeding you can’t explain, tell your doctor. This includes nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood spots or rashes on the skin. Some people may need a drip to give them extra platelets.
Anaemia (low number of red blood cells)
Docetaxel and carboplatin can reduce the number of red blood cells in your blood. These cells carry oxygen around the body. If your number of red blood cells is low, you may be tired and breathless. If you feel like this, tell your doctor or nurse. If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra red blood cells (blood transfusion).
This may happen in the first few days after chemotherapy. Your doctor will prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs to help prevent or control sickness. They may also give you a steroid drug to help. Take the drugs exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has explained. It’s easier to prevent sickness than to treat it after it has started.
If you still feel sick, or vomit twice or more in 24 hours, contact the hospital on the number they gave you as soon as possible. They will give you advice and may change the anti-sickness drug to one that works better for you. Some people may need to go to hospital for a short time so the doctors and nurses can control their sickness.
Some anti-sickness drugs can make you constipated. If this is a problem for you, tell your doctor or nurse.
Feeling very tired is a common side effect. It’s often worse towards the end of treatment and for some weeks after it’s finished. Try to pace yourself and get as much rest as you need. It helps to balance this with some gentle exercise, such as short walks. If you feel sleepy, don’t drive or operate machinery.
Changes in the way the kidneys work
Carboplatin can affect how your kidneys work. You will have blood tests before and during treatment to check this. Your nurse will ask you to drink plenty of fluid. Tell them if there are any changes in how much urine you are producing.
Muscle and/or joint pain
You may get pain in your joints or muscles for a few days after chemotherapy. Tell your doctor if this happens so they can prescribe painkillers. Let them know if the pain does not get better. Try to get plenty of rest. Taking regular, warm baths may help.
You will usually lose all the hair on your head. Your eyelashes, eyebrows and other body hair may also thin or fall out. This usually starts after your first or second cycle of chemotherapy. It is almost always temporary and your hair will grow back after chemotherapy ends but, rarely, the hair loss is permanent. Until your hair grows back, it is important to cover your head to protect your scalp when you are out in the sun. Your nurse can give you advice about coping with hair loss. You might also find our information on coping with hair loss helpful.
Scalp cooling is a way of lowering the temperature of the scalp during chemotherapy to help reduce hair loss. Your nurse can tell you if this is an option for you.
Your mouth may become sore or dry, or you may notice small ulcers during treatment. Drinking plenty of fluids, and cleaning your teeth regularly and gently with a soft toothbrush, can help reduce the risk of this happening. Some people find sucking on ice soothing.
Tell your nurse or doctor if you have any of these problems. They can prescribe mouthwashes and medicine to prevent or clear mouth infections.
You may get a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth or find that food tastes different. This should go away when your treatment finishes. To give your food more flavour, try using herbs and spices (unless you have a sore mouth or ulcers), or strong-flavoured sauces. Sucking boiled sweets can sometimes help get rid of a bitter or metallic taste. Your nurse can give you more advice.
Your doctor can prescribe drugs to control diarrhoea. Let them know if it is severe or if it doesn’t get better. Make sure you drink at least two litres (three and a half pints) of fluids every day if you have diarrhoea.
Docetaxel and carboplatin may affect your skin. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect. If your skin feels dry, try using an unperfumed moisturising cream every day. During treatment and for several months afterwards, you'll be more sensitive to the sun and your skin may burn more easily than usual. You can still go out in the sun, but use a suncream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and cover up with clothing and a hat.
If you’ve had radiotherapy (recently or in the past), the area that was treated may become red or sore. Always tell your doctor or nurse about any skin changes. They can give you advice and may prescribe creams or medicines to help. Any changes to your skin are usually temporary and will improve when treatment finishes.
Soreness and redness of palms of hands and soles of feet
This is called palmar-plantar or hand-foot syndrome. It gets better when the treatment ends. Your doctor or nurse may prescribe creams to improve the symptoms. It can help to keep your hands and feet cool and to avoid tight-fitting socks, shoes and gloves.
Less common side effects of docetaxel and carboplatinBack to top
Numb or tingling hands or feet
These symptoms are caused by the effect of docetaxel on nerves. It’s called peripheral neuropathy. You may also find it hard to do up buttons or do other fiddly tasks.
Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms. They sometimes need to lower the dose of the drug. The symptoms usually improve slowly after treatment finishes but, in some people, they may never go away. Talk to your doctor if you are worried about this.
Your nails may become brittle and break easily. They may get darker or discoloured, and/or you may get lines or ridges on them. These changes grow out of the nails after treatment finishes. Wearing gloves when washing dishes or using detergents will help protect your nails during treatment.
Your eyes may become watery and feel sore. Your doctor can prescribe eye drops to help with this. If your eyes get red and inflamed (conjunctivitis), tell your doctor. You may need antibiotic eye drops.
Loss of appetite
You may lose your appetite during your treatment. Try to eat small meals regularly. Don’t worry if you don’t eat much for a day or two. If your appetite doesn’t improve after a few days, let your nurse or dietitian know. They can give you advice on getting more calories and protein in your diet. They may give you food supplements or meal replacement drinks to try. Your doctor can prescribe some of these and you can buy them from chemists.
If you feel unwell or have any severe side effects, it’s important to let your doctor know straight away. Do this even if your side effects are different from those mentioned above.
Other information about docetaxel and carboplatinBack to top
Blood clot risk
Cancer increases the chance of a blood clot (thrombosis), and chemotherapy can add to this. A clot can cause symptoms such as:
- pain, redness and swelling in a leg
- chest pain.
Contact your doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms. A blood clot is serious, but your doctor can treat it with drugs that thin the blood. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.
Some medicines can interact with chemotherapy or be harmful when you are having chemotherapy. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist. Tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, complementary therapies and herbal drugs.
Docetaxel contains alcohol. Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if this is a problem for you. This treatment may affect your ability to drive or operate machinery.
You may be advised to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit drinks while you are having this treatment. This is because it may increase the side effects.
Docetaxel and carboplatin may affect your fertility (being able to get pregnant or father a child). If you are worried about this, you can talk to your doctor or nurse before treatment starts.
Your doctor will advise you not to become pregnant or to father a child during treatment. This is because the drugs may harm a developing baby. It’s important to use effective contraception during and for a few months after chemotherapy. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about this.
If you have sex within the first couple of days of having chemotherapy, you need to use a condom. This is to protect your partner in case there is any chemotherapy in semen or vaginal fluid.
Changes to your periods
Chemotherapy can sometimes stop the ovaries working. You may not get a period every month and they may eventually stop. In some women this is temporary, but for others it is permanent and they start the menopause.
Women are advised not to breastfeed during treatment and for a few months after. This is in case there is chemotherapy in their breast milk.
Medical and dental treatment
If you need to go into hospital for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having chemotherapy. Give them contact details for your cancer doctor.
Talk to your cancer doctor or nurse if you think you need dental treatment. Always tell your dentist you are having chemotherapy.
References and thanks
This page has been compiled using information from a number of reliable sources, including the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC; medicines.org.uk). If you’d like further information on the sources we use, please feel free to contact us.
This information was reviewed by a medical professional.
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