Chemotherapy does not cure prostate cancer, which is one reason it is not used to treat localized prostate cancer the first time it occurs. However, if you have been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer or if your cancer has returned after treatment, your doctor may recommend chemotherapy as an option to extend your life or improve your quality of life.
Chemotherapy works by killing fast-growing cells, but the drugs cannot discriminate between cancer cells and other fast-growing cells, such as hair follicles. This is one reason for many of the typical side effects of chemotherapy, including hair loss.
Getting Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer
For prostate cancer, chemotherapy is typically given as a single drug rather than a combination of drugs. It may be given orally or by injection.
Prostate cancer is usually treated with one of the following:
- Docetaxel (Taxotere)
- Cabazitaxel (Jevtana)
- Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
- Vinorelbine (Navelbine)
- Doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
- Carboplatin (Paraplatin)
Your doctor may have you continue with hormone therapy while you are receiving chemotherapy. Often chemotherapy is given with prednisone (a steroid).
You may receive chemotherapy once a week or once every three weeks. Treatment will continue for as long as the cancer is responding, unless side effects become a problem.
Outpatient chemotherapy for prostate cancer is given in the Infusion Suite on the fifth floor of the SCCA clinic on south Lake Union as well as at Halvorson Cancer Center at Evergreen Health in Kirkland and at University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC). You may want to bring a friend or family member to sit with you during your treatment, which may take several hours. Inpatient chemotherapy, if you need it, is given at UWMC.
Prostate Cancer Chemotherapy Clinical Studies
Some promising chemotherapy treatments are only available through clinical studies, also known as clinical trials. Our doctors are at the forefront of prostate cancer research and are leading a number of studies looking for new and better treatments for prostate cancer. Ask your doctor about clinical studies that may be appropriate for you. You may want to read more about participating in prostate cancer clinical studies.
The side effects of chemotherapy vary greatly from person to person and depend on the type and dose of the drugs, how they are given, and the length of time they are given. Some people experience few side effects. Your doctor or nurse can tell you the side effects that are most common with your chemotherapy, how long they might last, and how severe they might be.
Your doctor may give you medicines to lessen the severity of side effects or prevent them before they happen. Promptly report any side effects you have to your medical team so they can be treated. Your team may be able to suggest ways to manage side effects, or they may change your medicine dosage or treatment schedule to prevent your side effects from getting worse. See symptom management for general information about dealing with side effects.
The time it takes to get over some side effects and regain energy depends on many factors, including your overall health and the drugs you were given. Many side effects are short-term and go away after treatment is finished because your healthy cells recover over time. However, some side effects may take months or years to go away or may never completely resolve.