Neurotoxicity of taxanes: symptoms and quality of life assessment

Breast Cancer. 2004;11(1):92-9. doi: 10.1007/BF02968010.


Paclitaxel (TXL) and docetaxel (TXT), especially TXL, cause neurotoxicity manifested as polyneuropathy. In clinical practice, detailed knowledge of the symptoms and effect on quality of life (QOL) of neurotoxicity is crucially important both for diagnosis of neuropathy and for management of patients treated with taxanes. In this review, we summarize the symptoms of neurotoxicity caused by taxanes, and highlight the importance of QOL assessment in breast cancer patients treated with taxanes. The most common feature of taxane neurotoxicity is a predominant sensory distal neuropathy, and the incidence and severity of the neuropathic manifestations appear to be related to dose level and cumulative dose. A mixture of paresthesias and dysesthesias is often prominent, and the complaints include burning dysesthesia, numbness, tingling, and shooting pains, typically in a stocking-glove distribution. In contrast to sensory disturbances, motor neuropathy is not well recognized, and is believed to be much less common than sensory neuropathy. Weakness is usually mild, and distal motor neuropathy caused by taxanes rarely affects patients' activities of daily living. The effect of neurotoxicity on QOL is not fully understood, as no study has specifically assessed QOL in terms of neurotoxicity. There is therefore a clear need to collect more detailed data about QOL using well validated, reliable instruments. This will enable us to provide the information that patients require when treatment decisions are being made, and will help in the pursuit of the ameliorative interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / adverse effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology
  • Polyneuropathies / chemically induced
  • Polyneuropathies / diagnosis*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Taxoids / adverse effects*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Taxoids