About chemotherapy for prostate cancer
This page tells you about chemotherapy for prostate cancer. There is information about
Chemotherapy for prostate cancer
Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. A number of chemotherapy drugs may be used, including
Docetaxel is the most commonly used drug. It is licensed in the UK for prostate cancer that has not responded to hormone treatment, or the hormone treatment is no longer working. But it is only used for people who the doctors think are fit enough to have this chemotherapy treatment. All chemotherapy has side effects. The likely side effects have to be balanced with the potential benefit you get from the treatment.
A number of clinical trials are looking into using chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer.
If you are taking any dietary supplements or herbal medicines, it is a good idea to tell your doctor. Some supplements may interact with chemotherapy and could be harmful.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating prostate cancer section.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. It is used mainly if hormone therapy is not controlling the cancer. A number of chemotherapy drugs may be used and these include
- Docetaxel (Taxotere)
- Mitoxantrone (used to be called mitozantrone)
- Paclitaxel (Taxol)
The links above take you to information about the side effects of each drug.
Docetaxel is the most commonly used drug. It is used for prostate cancer that has not responded to hormone therapy. It is also used if hormone treatment is no longer controlling the cancer. But it is only used for people who are fit enough to have this chemotherapy treatment. All chemotherapy has side effects and the likely side effects have to be balanced with the potential benefit of the treatment. So it is important to talk this through with your doctor.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend up to 10 treatments per patient. They say that the treatment should stop if the cancer continues to grow, or if you have severe side effects. NICE say docetaxel should be available to men who are able to look after themselves with only occasional help.
The cancer drugs section has information about the specific side effects of chemotherapy drugs. Below is a general overview of likely side effects of prostate cancer chemotherapy drugs.
All chemotherapy has side effects. Those you get depend on
- Which drug or combination of drugs you have
- How much of each drug you have
- How you individually react
Some people have more side effects than others. And different drugs have different side effects. So we can't tell you exactly what will happen to you. But here is a list of some common side effects and links to information about how to manage them.
- Feeling tired and run down
- Low numbers of blood cells
- Feeling sick
- Hair loss or thinning
- A sore mouth and mouth ulcers
- Being unable to have a baby (infertility)
Some drugs have unusual side effects. If you are having treatment with epirubicin remember that it can make your urine turn red for a couple of days after you have the drug. Some people worry that it is blood in the urine, which can be frightening.
There is quite a bit that can be done to reduce side effects. And most side effects only last for the few days that you are actually having the drugs. Tell your doctor or nurse about any side effects you have as soon as they develop, so that they can help treat them. You can ask your doctor or nurse which of the side effects are most common with the chemotherapy drug you will have. Chemotherapy courses can seem to go on forever, particularly if you are getting very tired towards the end of your course. But they do finish. And the side effects will go once your treatment ends.
We don't yet know much scientifically about how some nutritional or herbal supplements may interact with chemotherapy. Some could be harmful. It is very important to let your doctors know if you take any supplements. Or if you are prescribed therapies by alternative or complementary therapy practitioners.
Talk to your specialist about any other tablets or medicines you take while you are having active treatment. There is information about the safety of herbal, vitamin and diet supplements in the complementary therapies section.
Some studies seem to suggest that fish oil preparations may reduce the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs. If you are taking, or thinking of taking, these supplements talk to your doctor to find out whether they could affect your treatment.
Look at the chemotherapy section. It explains the treatment in detail. If you are wondering about chemotherapy for prostate cancer, you can talk it over with your doctor.
You can contact the Cancer Research UK nurses. There are books and booklets about chemotherapy, some of which are free. Look in the prostate cancer reading list or the reading list about cancer and treatments.
If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum. Or go through My Wavelength. This is a free service that aims to put people with similar medical conditions in touch with each other.
UK Prostate Link can direct you to more information about chemotherapy for prostate cancer.
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