Prostate cancer

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Chemotherapy for prostate cancer

Chemotherapy uses anticancer (cytotoxic) drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is sometimes used to treat prostate cancer. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the drugs, doses and schedules of chemotherapy. You may also receive other treatments.

Chemotherapy is given for different reasons. You may have chemotherapy:

  • along with hormonal therapy to treat prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (called metastatic prostate cancer)
  • to treat prostate cancer that stops responding to hormonal therapy (called castrate-resistant prostate cancer)
  • to relieve pain or control the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer (called palliative chemotherapy)

Chemotherapy is usually a systemic therapy. This means that the drugs travel through the bloodstream to reach and destroy cancer cells all over the body, including those that may have broken away from the primary tumour in the prostate.

Chemotherapy drugs used for prostate cancer

Chemotherapy drugs used to treat prostate cancer are:

  • docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • mitoxantrone
  • cabazitaxel (Jevtana)
  • estramustine (Emcyt)
  • paclitaxel (Taxol)
  • doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
  • epirubicin (Pharmorubicin)
  • vinorelbine (Navelbine)

The following drug combinations are used to treat prostate cancer:

  • docetaxel and prednisone
  • mitoxantrone and prednisone
  • cabazitaxel and prednisone
  • estramustine and etoposide (Vepesid, VP-16)
  • estramustine and vinblastine (Velbe)
  • estramustine and paclitaxel

The following drug combinations are used to treat prostate cancer if an adenocarcinoma (the most common type of prostate cancer) changes into a more aggressive type of cancer called a small cell carcinoma of the prostate:

  • cisplatin (Platinol AQ) and etoposide (Vepesid)
  • carboplatin (Paraplatin) and etoposide

Side effects

Side effects can happen with any type of treatment for prostate cancer, but everyone’s experience is different. Some men have many side effects. Other men have few or none at all.

Chemotherapy may cause side effects because it can damage healthy cells as it kills cancer cells. If you develop side effects, they can happen any time during, immediately after or a few days or weeks after chemotherapy. Sometimes late side effects develop months or years after chemotherapy. Most side effects go away on their own or can be treated, but some side effects may last a long time or become permanent.

Side effects of chemotherapy will depend mainly on the type of drug, the dose, how it’s given and your overall health. Some common side effects of chemotherapy drugs used for prostate cancer are:

Tell your healthcare team if you have these side effects or others you think might be from chemotherapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.

Information about specific cancer drugs

Details on specific drugs change regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.

Questions to ask about chemotherapy

Find out more about chemotherapy and side effects of chemotherapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about chemotherapy.


A cancerous (malignant) tumour that starts in glandular cells (cells that release substances such as mucus, hormones and lubricating fluids).