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Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body to kill cancer cells. The side effects from chemotherapy occur because it destroys both normal cells and cancer cells.

While chemotherapy is not part of the standard treatment for prostate cancer, it may be used if other treatments are not effective.

Types of Chemotherapy Drugs

If you and your doctor decide that you are going to undergo chemotherapy, you most likely will take a drug called docetaxel, which is often combined with the steroid prednisone. If docetaxel does not work, your doctor may recommend cabazitaxel, a newer drug. These 2 drugs may help you to live longer, reduce your symptoms, and slow cancer growth. In addition to these 2 chemotherapy drugs, there are also many others that your doctor may recommend (mitoxantrone, estramustine, doxorubicin).

Unfortunately, there are many side effects associated with chemotherapy, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Hair loss
  • Low red blood cell count
  • Weakened immune system
  • Fatigue
Newer Treatment Approaches
Targeted Therapies

Researchers continue to develop and study different strategies to slow or stop the growth of tumors. The drug cabozantinib, for instance, interferes with the process that cancer cells go through to create new blood vessels, which are needed for the cancer to grow. Cabozantinib is still being investigated. But, if you have advanced prostate cancer, you may be able to take this drug as part of a clinical trial.

Some of the side effects that have been reported include:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • A skin reaction called hand-foot syndrome

Immunotherapy is a drug treatment that aims to build your immune system so that you can better fight cancer cells. Sipuleucel-T is a type of immunotherapy that is approved to treat prostate cancer that has spread.

Some of the side effects include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Nausea
  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Headache


Chemotherapy for prostate cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: Updated September 4, 2012. Accessed September 20, 2012.

Hand-foot-and-mouth disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated August 3, 2014. Accessed September 20, 2012.

Prostate cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated September 13, 2012. Accessed September 20, 2012.

Last reviewed September 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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