Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is given to men when they are first diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, together with hormonal therapy. It may also be used to treat cancer that is no longer being controlled by hormonal therapy.
The aim of chemotherapy for advanced prostate cancer is to control the cancer. This will help to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
The most commonly used chemotherapy drug to treat prostate cancer is docetaxel (Taxotere®). Other drugs that may be used are
The chemotherapy drugs are given into a vein (intravenously). The drugs get into the blood and can reach cancer cells all over the body.
You can have chemotherapy drugs through:
- a short thin tube that the nurse puts into a vein in your arm or hand (cannula)
- a fine tube that is put into a vein in your arm and goes up into a vein in your chest (PICC line)
- a fine tube that goes under the skin of your chest and into a vein close by (central line).
Chemotherapy is usually given as several sessions of treatment. Each session is followed by a rest period of a few weeks. The rest period allows your body to recover from the side effects.
Some people are given drugs to take a day or two before treatment to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction or sickness. This depends on the type of treatment you have and your nurse will go over this with you.
Chemotherapy and the rest period, together, make up a cycle of your treatment. Your cancer doctor will explain the number of cycles you need to treat the cancer. After your first cycle, you’ll have a better idea of what you can plan for and how much you may or may not be able to do.
It may take several months to complete all the cycles of your chemotherapy.
The side effects you get will depend on the chemotherapy drugs you are having. Different drugs cause different side effects. You may get some of the side effects we mention here, but you are unlikely to get all of them. Some side effects are mild and can be treated easily. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist may prescribe drugs to help control them. Most side effects stop or gradually get better when chemotherapy is over.
We have more information about the side effects of chemotherapy.