What is Chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. The drugs circulate in the bloodstream. They kill any rapidly growing cells, including both cancerous prostate cancer cells and non-cancerous ones. Dose and frequency are carefully controlled.

Many chemotherapy drugs go directly into a vein through a tube. Others are taken by mouth. They are given in the health care provider's office or at home. You generally do not need to stay in the hospital for chemotherapy.

Often, chemotherapy is not the primary therapy for prostate cancer patients, but for men with advanced stages of prostate cancer, or whose cancer has metastasized, or spread from the prostate gland to other parts of the body.

What are The Benefits, Risks and Side Effects of Chemotherapy?

Over the last 10 years, chemotherapy drugs have helped patients who have prostate cancer that has spread. Overall survival rate increased with new drugs. Chemotherapy boosts the immune system's ability to fight cancer.

The risks are that the chemotherapy might not work and that the drugs kill healthy cells in the body. There is an increased risk of infections because of the lower blood cell count.

Side effects depend on the drug, the dosage, and how long the treatment lasts. The most common side effects are fatigue (feeling very tired), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, change in the sense of taste and decrese in blood cell counts that result in an increased risk of infections.

To minimize the side effects, chemotherapy drugs are carefully monitored according to the amount and number of times they are administered by your physician. Supportive medication is also given to further help offset the side effects caused by the drugs. Most side effects disappear once chemotherapy is stopped.

Who are Good Candidates for Chemotherapy?

Because chemotherapy improves survival and relieves symptoms of advanced prostate cancer, if your cancer has spread you may be a good candidate for this treatment. It is important to talk about treatment with your health care provider. Chemotherapy is an aggressive treatment with side effect.

Other Resources

Advocacy Connector

Use the Advocacy Connector to search director listing of national and select state resources for patients and caregivers, including helplines, support, clinical trials information, and financial, legal and insurance assistance.

American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT)

Your urologist may be able to refer you to medical professionals and counselors who specialize in erectile dysfunction after prostate cancer. AASECT also has a directory you can use to find a certified sex therapist near you.

Caregiver Action Network

The Caregiver Action Network offers a family caregiver forum and toolbox of resources.

National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

Prostate Cancer

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network lists information on clinical trials; life with cancer; life after cancer; and payment assistance.


Prostate Cancer (English)
Cáncer de próstata (Español)

Patient Access Network Foundation (PAN Foundation)

The PAN Foundation offers co-pay assistance for metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer.

Patient Advocacy Foundation

The Patient Advocacy Foundation Patient Services program provides patients with case management to assist with access to care, medical debt and job retention related to their illness.

USToo International, Inc.

Find a support group near you.

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Know Your Stats® About Prostate Cancer




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