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Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Chemotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Chemotherapy (chemo) uses anticancer drugs that are injected into a vein or administered by mouth. These drugs travel through the bloodstream in most parts of the body to kill cancer cells.

When is chemotherapy used?

Chemo is often used when Prostate Cancer has spread beyond the gland of the prostate and Hormone therapy does not function. Recent work has also shown that if given along with hormone therapy, chemotherapy may be effective. Chemo is however not a standard treatment for early Prostate Cancer.

Chemo drugs used to treat prostate cancer

For prostate cancer, chemo-drugs are typically used one at a time. Some of the chemo drugs used to treat Prostate Cancer include Docetaxel: This is the most commonly used chemotherapy drug for advanced prostate cancer. It is usually given intravenously every three weeks. Cabazitaxel: This drug is often used when docetaxel is no longer effective. It is also administered intravenously, typically every three weeks. Mitoxantrone: Although not as commonly used as docetaxel or cabazitaxel, mitoxantrone can be an option for advanced prostate cancer In most cases, the first chemo drug given is docetaxel, combined with the steroid drug prednisone. If this does not work (or stops working), cabazitaxel is often the next chemo drug tried (although there may be other treatment options as well). Docetaxel and cabazitaxel have been shown to help men live longer, on average, than older chemo drugs. They may slow the cancer's growth and reduce symptoms, resulting in a better quality of life. Still, chemo is very unlikely to cure prostate Cancer. Other chemo drugs being studied for use in prostate cancer include carboplatin, oxaliplatin, and cisplatin.

Possible side effects of chemotherapy

Chemo drugs target rapidly dividing cells and thus they function against cancer cells. But other cells in the body, such as those in the bone marrow (where new blood cells are made), mouth and intestine lining, and hair follicles, divide rapidly as well. Chemo can also damage these cells, and this can lead to side effects. Chemo's side effects depend on the type and dose of drugs given, and how long they are used. 

Some common side effects

Nausea and vomiting: These are common side effects that can usually be managed with anti-nausea medications.

Fatigue: Chemotherapy can cause general tiredness and lack of energy. Resting and maintaining a balanced lifestyle can help combat fatigue.

Hair loss: Some chemotherapy drugs can lead to temporary hair loss, including scalp, facial, and body hair.

Decreased blood cell counts: Chemotherapy can affect the production of blood cells, leading to an increased risk of infections, anemia, and easy bruising or bleeding.

Diarrhea or constipation: Chemotherapy drugs can disrupt the normal functioning of the digestive system, causing diarrhea or constipation. Medications and dietary adjustments can help manage these symptoms.

Increased risk of infection: Chemotherapy can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections. Precautions like hand hygiene and avoiding crowded places are important.

Nerve damage: Some chemotherapy drugs can cause peripheral neuropathy, resulting in numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands and feet.

Changes in appetite and taste: Chemotherapy can affect the sense of taste and appetite, leading to changes in food preferences.

Emotional and psychological effects: Coping with cancer and its treatment can be emotionally challenging. It's essential to seek support from loved ones, support groups, or mental health professionals. Typically, these side effects go away until treatment is done. Those side effects are also reduced. Along with the above risks, other side effects of other chemo drugs are more commonly seen. For instance: Docetaxel and cabazitaxel also cause severe allergic reactions. Medicines are given to help avoid this before each procedure. These medications can also affect the nerves (known as peripheral neuropathy), which can cause symptoms of numbness, tingling, or burning in the hands and feet. Very rarely, mitoxantrone may cause leukemia some years later.

The risk of blood clots increases with estramustine. When you experience any side effects when undergoing chemo report them to the cancer care team for prompt treatment. In certain cases, chemo-drug doses may need to be reduced, or therapy may need to be postponed or halted to prevent the symptoms from getting worse.


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