Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer – Understanding the Effects

Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Understanding Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy (also referred to as chemo) is a treatment procedure involving injecting of anti-cancer drugs into a vein or orally. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body for treating metastasized cancers (spread to distant organs).

Prostate Cancer and Chemotherapy

Doctors suggest chemotherapy for prostate cancer when it has spread outside the prostate gland. This option is used when hormone therapy doesn’t work. In many cases, chemo for prostate cancer has proved helpful when combined with hormone therapy.

It does not make for a standard treatment for prostate cancer in its early stages.

Chemo Drugs for Prostate Cancer

Chemo drugs for prostate cancer are mainly used one at a time. Here is a list of some of the drugs used to treat prostate cancer:

  • Estramustine (Emcyt)
  • Docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
  • Cabazitaxel (Jevtana)

Docetaxel is the first drug used for chemo in most cases of prostate cancer. This is often combined with prednisone, a steroid drug. In case, the drug does not go very well with the condition or it stops working at some point in time, doctors may use cabazitaxel as the second option.

Both of the drugs mentioned above help men live longer. These are more effective than chemo drugs used in older times. The drugs are responsible for slowing down the growth of cancer. It will also minimize symptoms and ensure better life quality to patients.

The best prostate doctors usually give chemo in cycles. Each treatment period is followed by a rest period so as to allow the body time to recover. One cycle will last for a few weeks.

Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer – The Side Effects

Just as with any cancer, chemo drugs tend to attack cells that divide at a fast pace. This is also the reason these work well against cancer cells. However, the drugs make other cells in the body, including bone marrow (production site for new blood cells), intestines, the lining of the mouth, and hair follicles divide faster. When these cells get affected by chemo treatment, the patient experiences side effects. Chemo side effects will depend on the dose and type of drugs given and the time period for which the patient takes it.

Some of the most common side effects of these drugs include:

  • Heavy hair loss
  •  Easy bleeding / bruising (due to decreased number of blood platelets)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue (due to decreased number of red blood cells)
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea                                                             
  • Increased chance of infections (due to decreased number of white blood cells). 

The above-mentioned side effects are only temporary. These usually go away once treatment is over. Also, most of these side effects can be decreased with external help such as medications and other therapies.

Apart from the common risks, some of the side effects are seen more with some specific chemo drugs. These include:

  •  Estramustine – The drug is known for carrying an increased risk of blood clots.
  • Docetaxel and Cabazitaxel – In some cases, these drugs may cause severe allergic reactions. Medicines can be given prior to each treatment in order to help prevent this. These drugs may also be nerve-damaging. This may lead to tingling, numbness, burning sensations in hands and feet etc.
  • Mitoxantrone – In rare cases, the drug may result in leukemia several years later.

What to Do?

In case, you observe any side effects while getting chemo, it is important to report these to your medical team. These side effects will be taken care of and treated promptly. Doses of chemo drugs in some cases might be reduced or even stopped to help patient lower the effects.

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