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.