Chemotherapy is given in cycles of treatment followed by a recovery period. The entire treatment generally lasts three to six months, depending on the type of chemotherapy medications given.
How Is Chemotherapy Given?
Generally, chemotherapy drugs are given intravenously (directly into the vein) or by mouth. Once the drugs are absorbed, they enter the bloodstream and travel to virtually all parts of the body to reach cancer cells that may have spread beyond the prostate.
When Is Chemotherapy Given?
Chemotherapy is given to cause the cancer to shrink and, hopefully, to disappear. Even if the cancer does not disappear, symptoms may be relieved.
What Are the Side Effects?
Because chemotherapy acts to kill rapidly-dividing cancer cells, it also kills other rapidly-dividing healthy cells in the bodies, such as the membranes lining the mouth, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, hair follicles, and bone marrow. As a result, the side effects of chemotherapy relate to these areas of damaged cells. The good news is that the damaged noncancerous cells will be replaced with healthy cells. Most side effects are only temporary.
The specific side effects you have depend on the type and amount of medicines you are given and how long you are taking them. The most common, temporary side effects of chemotherapy include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Hair loss
- Mouth sores
- Infertility (a potential permanent side effect of chemotherapy)
Ask your doctor about specific side effects you can expect from your chemotherapy medicines. Also, discuss troubling or unmanageable side effects with your doctor.