How Long Will I Receive Chemotherapy Treatment For Prostate Cancer?

Susan F. Slovin, M.D, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

March 16, 2009 -- Question: How long will I receive chemotherapy treatment for prostate cancer?

Answer: There is really no endpoint for how long one can continue with chemotherapy. The standard is really for us to give patients six months of treatment initially. And the reason is that, after six months, most people have a accumulation of how fatigued they might be and therefore they need the rest. But as long as there is clinical benefit, meaning as long as you are feeling well, you have no treatment-associated side effects such as severe fatigue, problems with your blood count, numbness or tingling in your fingers or toes, anything that might affect your life, one can go on indefinitely. And we are certainly not talking about going on indefinitely in terms of until another event occurs.

I think most patients opt to be treated anywhere from six to eight months with a rest. And during that time, we often tell people to go on vacation to enjoy themselves and then come back, at which point we will try to reinstitute chemotherapy if we feel there is a need. And what usually drives that is a sudden rise in the PSA, suggesting that the disease has once again become activated, or perhaps a change in the bone or CAT scan.