In some cases, a person may receive chemotherapy for prostate cancer. Doctors usually recommend this treatment when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in males in the United States. Prostate cancer occurs due to abnormal cell growth in the prostate gland.

There are a few treatment options available to people with prostate cancer. Treatment depends on factors such as cancer stage and whether it has spread. Chemotherapy is one of these possible treatment options.

In this article, we examine when people may receive chemotherapy for prostate cancer. We look at the types of chemotherapy used, how a person receives the treatment, and the side effects.

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Chemotherapy for prostate cancer is not generally a standard treatment for early stages.

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a person would receive chemotherapy for prostate cancer if they have a certain type of cancer known as “metastatic.”

Metastatic cancer is when cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

According to the American Cancer Society, a person may also receive chemotherapy for prostate cancer if hormone therapy does not work.

Doctors consider several factors before starting a person on chemotherapy treatment. These factors may include:

  • other treatment options or clinical trials available
  • likelihood of chemotherapy being tolerated
  • previous treatments
  • whether a person requires radiation therapy beforehand to alleviate pain

Read about prostate cancer.

For prostate cancer, a person receives chemotherapy medications one at a time rather than in combination.

There are various types of chemotherapy doctors may use to treat prostate cancer.

Docetaxel (Taxotere)

Docetaxel is usually the first chemotherapy drug a person may receive. People may receive docetaxel in combination with a steroid drug called prednisone.

Docetaxel can help extend life, relieve pain, and improve quality of life. However, it does not cure prostate cancer.

Research from 2018 states that this type of chemotherapy medication improved survival rates in people with metastatic prostate cancer.

However, 2021 research states that, although the initial response is positive in most people, some people can develop a resistance to docetaxel.

Cabazitaxel (Jevtana)

This chemotherapy drug is usually the next drug doctors try if docetaxel does not work or stops working.

A person may also receive prednisone in combination with cabazitaxel.

A 2019 review suggests this chemotherapy drug can prolong life in people with prostate cancer and is usually well tolerated.

Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)

Mitoxantrone is another medication a person may receive if docetaxel and cabazitaxel do not work or stop working.

Research from 2020 states that mitoxantrone kills cancerous cells in animal studies. However, researchers say this type of chemotherapy is not yet fully understood, especially for prostate cancer.

Estramustine (Emcyt)

This is another alternative type of chemotherapy if the docetaxel and cabazitaxel do not work or stop working.

Research from 2018 states that estramustine can help kill prostate cancer cells. Researchers note, however, that further studies are needed on the mechanisms of this type of chemotherapy on prostate cancer.

Platinum chemotherapy

According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, a type of chemotherapy known as platinum chemotherapy may also be used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

Platinum chemotherapy drugs include:

  • carboplatin (Paraplatin)
  • cisplatin (Platinol)
  • oxaliplatin (Eloxatin)

However, this treatment does not currently have approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of prostate cancer.

People with advanced prostate cancer may receive platinum chemotherapy if other treatments do not work or have stopped working.

According to a 2020 study, platinum-based chemotherapy may be an effective option for people with advanced prostate cancer.

Read more about chemotherapy.

A person with prostate cancer typically receives chemotherapy intravenously.

People usually have several sessions to receive this treatment in cycles. This means they have a period of treatment followed by a period of rest, allowing for some recovery time. These cycles usually last for 2–3 weeks.

Cycle lengths may also vary depending on how effective the treatment is for a person and also any side effects they experience.

People receiving chemotherapy treatment needs to attend a doctor’s office, chemotherapy clinic, or a hospital.

A person usually receives estramustine orally in capsule form rather than through an IV. A person can speak with their doctor about chemotherapy options and the most effective treatment for their circumstances.

Because chemotherapy medications travel through the body, they can affect some healthy cells, causing side effects.

Sometimes, chemotherapy may cause damage to the:

  • heart
  • kidneys
  • bladder
  • lungs
  • nervous system

Side effects differ between people. Some people may only experience a few side effects, and others may not experience any effects.

Common side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • fatigue
  • bruising and bleeding easily
  • infection or anemia
  • nausea and vomiting
  • changes to appetite and weight
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • sores in the mouth, tongue, and throat
  • nerve problems, such as numbness, tingling, and pain
  • changes to skin, hair, or nails
  • kidney or bladder issues
  • difficulty concentrating
  • mood changes
  • changes to sexual function, desire, or fertility issues

The following are answers to some questions people frequently ask about chemotherapy for prostate cancer.

What is the newest treatment for prostate cancer?

The American Cancer Society states that the newest treatment for prostate cancer in the United States is high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU). This treatment destroys cancer cells using heat from ultrasonic beams.

Other countries have used HIFU treatments for some time. However, research is ongoing regarding its safety and effectiveness.

What is the most successful prostate cancer treatment?

This depends on the person. Some more advanced stages of prostate cancer may benefit the most from chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

However, early stage prostate cancer may be most effectively treated with surveillance, surgery, or radiation therapy.

At what stage of prostate cancer is chemotherapy used?

A person usually receives chemotherapy when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. It is not a standard treatment for early stages of prostate cancer.

A person with prostate cancer will not usually receive chemotherapy as a first-line treatment. However, if the cancer spreads to different areas of the body or if other treatments do not work, doctors may recommend chemotherapy.

There are various types of chemotherapy medications a person may receive. If one stops working, a doctor may prescribe another type.

People may experience some side effects when undergoing chemotherapy treatment. They can discuss all possible side effects with their doctor.