Chemotherapy is a treatment option that may be suitable for men who have prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced prostate cancer) and is no longer responding to hormone therapy. Chemotherapy is used to help control symptoms and not to cure prostate cancer. Some men may be offered chemotherapy at an earlier stage of their disease as part of a clinical trial. You can read more about clinical trials on page 2.
Chemotherapy may not be suitable for every man. If your specialist, usually your oncologist, thinks that you may benefit from chemotherapy they will first assess your general health. This may involve checking that your heart, lungs, liver and kidneys are working normally, as well as making sure that you are well enough to care for yourself with some occasional help. The side effects of chemotherapy are sometimes difficult to cope with so you need to be reasonably fit before you begin treatment.
You and your doctor will need to consider the possible side effects alongside the possible benefits of the treatment before making a decision about whether to go ahead.
Other possible treatments include oestrogens and steroids. Your doctor will also discuss options such as palliative radiotherapy, bisphosphonates or pain-relieving drugs, which can be used to help control your symptoms
How does chemotherapy treat prostate cancer?
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs to kill cancer cells. It can be used to help treat cancer cells that have travelled through the blood stream to other parts of the body, such as the bones.
The main aims of chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer are to help:
• Shrink the cancer
• Slow the growth of the cancer
• Control symptoms such as pain
• Improve your quality of life
There are several chemotherapy drugs available to treat prostate cancer. The most common ones are docetaxel (Taxotere) and mitoxantrone (Novantrone). Chemotherapy drugs are sometimes given alongside other treatments such as palliative radiotherapy, bisphosphonates or pain-relieving drugs. You may also be given steroids such as prednisolone with your chemotherapy to help make the treatment more effective.