Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy cancer cells in advanced prostate cancer when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It cannot eradicate prostate cancer, but it can shrink it and slow its growth. Chemotherapy may help some men with advanced prostate cancer to live longer. Chemotherapy can also help relieve some of your symptoms. Because the side effects of chemotherapy can be severe and may limit what you can do, your doctor may assess whether you are fit enough to go through a course of chemotherapy. You may also be prescribed steroid tablets along with your chemotherapy to prevent or reduce side effects such as poor appetite, weight loss, fatigue and low energy.
Chemotherapy is commonly given intravenously – that is, the medicine is given as a liquid through a fine tube into a vein in your arm. This way, the medicine goes into your bloodstream and moves through the whole body to attack any cancer cells that are there. Chemotherapy is usually given in a hospital setting but as an outpatient, which means you don’t have to stay overnight. The number of times you have to go, and the length of time you are there, depend on the chemotherapy treatment you have been prescribed by your doctor. Some chemotherapy drugs can be expensive. It is important to find out as much as you can about the treatment, procedure, possible side effects and outcomes so you are prepared. This can relieve the stress that some people experience when they are on chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy can cause side effects such as anaemia (low red blood cells), neutropenia (low white blood cells), fatigue, changes to appetite, bruising, constipation, diarrhoea, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, sore mouth or throat, nerve changes, skin and nail changes, watery eyes and runny nose, swelling, and infertility.