When chemotherapy is used to treat prostate cancer, side effects are possible and can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the type of chemo drugs used and the length of use. Chemotherapy works by targeting rapidly dividing cells. However, in addition to cancer cells, there are healthy cells in the body that also divide rapidly and can be affected by chemo, which in turn causes side effects. Some examples of these healthy, rapidly dividing cells include cells in the lining of the mouth and intestines, cells in the bone marrow (such as new blood cells) and hair follicles.
Common side effects of chemotherapy for prostate cancer include:
- Hair loss
- Poor appetite
- Mouth sores
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heightened chance of infection
- Easy bruising or bleeding
Some chemotherapy medications used to treat prostate cancer can cause other side effects as well, such as allergic reactions, blood clots and numbness or tingling sensations.
What can be done to treat or reduce side effects?
Once chemotherapy treatment is complete, its side effects will typically cease. However, steps can be taken to combat any side effects as they occur. For instance, medications can help prevent nausea and vomiting, laxatives or stool-binding medications can manage constipation or diarrhea, respectively, and numbing gel can soothe mouth sores. Additionally, chemotherapy dosages can be changed or alternative chemo drugs can be considered, if appropriate.
When is chemotherapy used to treat prostate cancer?
Chemotherapy is not commonly used for early-stage prostate cancer. However, chemotherapy may be recommended for later-stage cancer that has spread outside the prostate and is not responding well to hormone therapy. Chemo might also be considered along with hormone therapy or following surgery.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, we take a comprehensive approach to cancer care. In addition to our world-class clinical therapies and individualized treatment plans, we also help our patients with side effect management. To learn more about chemotherapy for prostate cancer, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Referrals are not required.