Canadian Cancer Society logo

Prostate cancer

You are here: 

Potential side effects of bisphosphonate therapy for prostate cancer

Side effects can occur with any type of treatment for prostate cancer, but not everyone has them or experiences them in the same way. Side effects of bisphosphonate therapy will depend mainly on the:

  • type of drug
  • dose
  • man's overall health

Side effects can happen any time during bisphosphonate therapy. Some may happen during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after therapy. Most side effects go away after bisphosphonate therapy is over. Late side effects can occur months or years after bisphosphonate therapy. Some side effects may last a long time or be permanent.

It is important to report side effects to the healthcare team.

Bone pain

Bone pain can temporarily become worse when bisphosphonates are first given.

Back to top

Digestive problems

Nausea and vomiting, heartburn, abdominal cramps or diarrhea may occur, especially with oral bisphosphonates. These side effects may require an increase in fluid intake to prevent dehydration. Medications can be used to control these symptoms.

Back to top

Flu-like symptoms

Fever and chills, muscle and joint aches, pain as well as fatigue may occur. These symptoms can be treated with pain or fever medication.

Back to top

Injection site pain 

Intravenous bisphosphonates may cause pain at the site of injection.

Back to top

Osteonecrosis

Destruction of the bone (osteonecrosis) occurs in the jaw in 1–2% of men taking zoledronic acid (Zometa). This causes loosening of the teeth and discomfort. A dental exam is required before starting treatment, and any dental procedures should be performed before starting treatment.

Back to top

Kidney damage

This side effect can be sudden (acute) or develop gradually. Some bisphosphonates are more toxic to the kidney than others. Any reduction in kidney function will be carefully assessed by the healthcare team and may require a reduction in the dose or stopping the drug completely.

Back to top

Other side effects

Other side effects that may occur with bisphosphonates are:

  • decrease in calcium level – treated with calcium supplements
  • inflamed, sore eyes – may require an eye exam and eye drops
  • gum swelling and pain – may be treated with a mouthwash

Back to top

Stories

Dr Christopher Phenix Dr Christopher Phenix developed a new tool to watch aggressive cancers.

Learn more

A helping hand for families

Illustration of crowd

The Canadian Cancer Society helps with expenses for children in cancer treatment and their families.

Learn more