Find out about steroid treatment, when and how you have it for prostate cancer and the possible side effects.
What steroids are
Steroids are naturally made by our bodies in small amounts. They help to control many functions. But steroids can also be made artificially and used as drugs to treat different diseases, including cancer.
Steroids used to treat cancer are usually a type called corticosteroids. These are man made versions of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands just above the kidneys.
When you have it
You have steroid treatment for cancer that has spread. You might take steroids:
- when hormone treatment is no longer working
- to help improve your appetite and boost your energy levels
- alongside other treatments, such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy like abiraterone
Types of steroid treatmentSteroids you might take include:
How you have steroids
You could have steroids as:
- tablets that you swallow - take your tablets after a meal, or with milk as they can irritate your stomach
- liquid - this is easier if you find swallowing tablets hard
Find out about possible side effects of steroids and what to do if you have them.
Chicken pox and shingles
Keep away from people who have chicken pox or shingles if you have never had these illnesses. They could make you very ill.
If you do come into contact with someone who has them, tell your doctor or nurse straight away.
Other medicines, foods and drink
Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
Don’t have immunisations with live vaccines while you’re having treatment and for at least 6 months afterwards.
In the UK, live vaccines include rubella, mumps, measles, BCG, yellow fever and Zostavax (shingles vaccine).
- have other vaccines, but they might not give you as much protection as usual
- have the flu vaccine
- be in contact with other people who've had live vaccines as injections
Avoid contact with people who’ve had live vaccines taken by mouth (oral vaccines). This includes the rotavirus vaccine given to babies. The virus is in the baby’s urine for up to 2 weeks and can make you ill. So, you mustn't change their nappies for 2 weeks after their vaccination.
You also need to avoid anyone who has had oral polio or typhoid vaccination recently.
Stopping steroid treatment
Take your steroids exactly as your doctor has told you.
When you take steroid tablets, the higher amounts in your bloodstream stop your body from making its own supply.
Never just stop taking your tablets. You must cut them down gradually with help and guidance from your doctor.