Steroids (sometimes called corticosteroids) are substances that are naturally produced in the body. They are made by the adrenal glands. There are two adrenal glands - one sits on the top of each kidney.
They help control many different functions in our bodies, like the way the body uses fats, proteins and carbohydrates. They regulate our immune system and the balance of salt and water in our bodies. They also help to reduce inflammation.
Steroids can be manufactured synthetically as drugs. There are different types of steroids and they all have different effects on the body. Common types of steroids used in cancer treatment are: hydrocortisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone and prednisolone.
Steroids can be used:
- as part of your treatment to help destroy cancer cells and make chemotherapy more effective
- to help reduce an allergic reaction to certain chemotherapy drugs
- in low doses as anti-sickness drugs to improve your appetite.
In these situations, steroids are usually given only for short periods of time, and the side effects described here won’t usually occur.