Chemotherapy is a common treatment for testicular cancer. There are many different chemotherapy drugs that can be used to treat the condition, and each one works in a slightly different way. However, the overall goal of any chemo drug is to prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading by destroying the cells or impairing their ability to divide.
When a healthy cell becomes cancerous, its DNA no longer instructs it to grow or die at the proper time. Instead, the DNA directs the cell to grow and divide very rapidly. Most chemotherapy drugs work by binding to this damaged DNA (or breaking it) so that the DNA can no longer program the cell to grow uncontrollably. Other chemotherapy drugs cause existing cancer cells to self-destruct.
Research studies suggest that combination chemotherapy can be more effective than a single drug given by itself. Many patients receive chemotherapy for testicular cancer in the form of BEP chemotherapy, which is a combination of three different medications:
While effective, combination chemotherapy can have stronger side effects than single-agent chemotherapy. To allow a patient’s body time to recover, oncologists usually prescribe chemotherapy in cycles. Patients are given the drugs on a specific schedule for several weeks, after which they have several weeks without chemo. Other testicular cancer therapies, such as surgery or radiation therapy, may be given before or after chemotherapy, depending on the overall goals of treatment.
Because there are so many different medications and delivery plans that can be used, it’s important for a patient to work with a team that can tailor the prescriptions to meet the patient’s specific needs. The medical oncologists at Moffitt Cancer Center review a wide range of factors – from the stage and cell type of a tumor to a patient’s ability to tolerate high doses of strong medications – to determine the best plan in each situation. Supportive care providers also contribute to a patient’s treatment, suggesting ways to manage any side effects that might occur as a result of chemo.