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Prostate Cancer Chemotherapy

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When is chemo used to treat prostate cancer?

Chemotherapy is only used to treat prostate cancer when hormonal manipulation has failed, or in advanced cases of prostate cancer when the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body (metastatic prostate cancer)1. Localised and locally-advanced prostate cancer, where the cancer cells are still contained with the prostate area, are best treated with surgery or radiotherapy, and would only be treated with chemotherapy in cases of aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

Chemo and prostate cancer

The form of chemo used to treat prostate cancer is referred to as cytotoxic. It is one of the more aggressive forms of chemo, with patients often experiencing unpleasant side effects, including hair loss and sickness.

Prostate chemo works by interfering in the way that the cancer cells grow1. Similar to hormone treatments, this means that chemo is not a cure for prostate cancer, but it does relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

It can be a difficult decision for a patient whether they choose to undergo chemo when their prostate cancer is no longer treatable by other means. Whilst chemo can prolong life expectancy and improve the discomfort the patient is experiencing with their prostate cancer symptoms, it is a toxic treatment that will affect healthy cells in the body1. A patient’s immune system will be destroyed by chemo leaving them open to infection, and the side effects of chemo can be very unpleasant.

Chemo is usually only offered as a treatment for prostate cancer when the patient is considered terminally ill and has exhausted all other treatment options.

Mr Christopher Eden
Consultant Urologist

1. NHS Choices – Prostate cancer treatment. Date last updated: 14.02.2011. Website:


10515 Revised November  2012

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