Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Chemotherapy is the use of one or a combination of cancer-killing drugs. Chemotherapy plays a limited role in the treatment of prostate cancer; it is primarily for the treatment of men with advanced or recurrent prostate cancer that does not respond to hormone therapy.

Chemotherapy uses drugs given intravenously (injected into a vein) or orally ( given by mouth). These drugs enter the bloodstream and go throughout the body, making this treatment potentially useful for cancers that have spread (metastasized) to distant organs.

Chemotherapy is sometimes used if prostate cancer has spread outside the prostate gland and hormone therapy isn't working. Chemo is not a standard treatment for early prostate cancer, but some studies are looking to see if it could be helpful if given for a short time after surgery.

Doctors give chemotherapy in cycles, with each period of treatment followed by a rest period to allow the body time to recover. Each cycle typically lasts for a few weeks. Chemotherapy is given to cause the cancer to shrink and, hopefully, disappear. Even if the cancer does not disappear, symptoms may be relieved, resulting in a better quality of life.


Possible Side Effects of Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy drugs attack cells that are dividing quickly, which is why they work against cancer cells. But other cells in the body, such as those in the bone marrow, the lining of the mouth and intestines, and the hair follicles, also divide quickly. These cells are also likely to be affected by chemotherapy, which can lead to side effects.

The specific side effects you have depend on the type and amount of medicines you are given and how long you are taking them.

The most common, temporary side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Mouth sores
  • Infertility (a potential permanent side effect of chemotherapy)

Other side effects associated with chemotherapy's effects on bone marrow include an increased risk of infection (due to low white blood cell counts), bleeding or bruising from minor injuries (due to low blood platelet counts), and anemia-related fatigue(due to low red blood cell counts).

Most of these side effects are usually short-term and there is help for many of them, they should go away once treatment is finished. For example, drugs can be given to help prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. Other drugs can be given to boost blood cell counts, if needed.

Because chemotherapy acts to kill rapidly dividing cancer cells, it also kills other rapidly dividing healthy cells in the bodies, such as the membranes lining the mouth, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, hair follicles, and bone marrow. As a result, the side effects of chemotherapy relate to these areas of damaged cells. The good news is that the damaged non-cancerous cells will be replaced with healthy cells, so the side effects are only temporary.

Some medications help control certain side effects, such as nausea and vomiting or diarrhea. Although it may take some time, side effects related to chemotherapy will go away when the treatments stop.

Ask your doctor about specific side effects you can expect from your chemotherapy medicines. If you experience any side effects during treatment you should discuss them with your healthcare team.


The Foshay Experience

At the Outpatient Chemotherapy and Infusion Unit in the Foshay Cancer Center you will find a team of outstanding chemotherapy certified nurses who will work collaboratively with your Medical Oncologist throughout your treatment. You will access to support services including: nutritional support, psychosocial support, cancer rehabilitation services and support groups to name a few.


For more information about the Outpatient Chemotherapy and Infusion Unit, please call (561) 263-4465.