Steroids and cancer therapies 

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The most commonly used steroids use to support the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment are called corticosteroids namely DEXAMETHASONE, PREDNISOLONE or HYDROCORTISONE. Some steroids have other names but the benefits and symptoms are generally the same.

Why are they used?

TO REDUCE SICKNESS.  They are often injected at the time of chemotherapy then given in tablet for for a few days afterwards. Combined with other anti-sickness drugs they are usually very effective.

TO REDUCE FATIGUE Fatigue is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Sensible doses of steroids can of reduce this troublesome symptom. Also see coping with fatigue.

TO REDUCE ALLERGIC REACTION All drugs can potentially induce an allergic response from the patient but some are more likely to do this than others. For example Bleomycin, Taxol, and Taxotere. It is important that steroids are given with these drugs to reduce the risk of this happening.

What are the side effects of steroids?

Steroids do have some side effects, including weight gain, wakefulness and sometimes agitation. Taking the tablets earlier in the day will help prevent this. If you normally have indigestion you may give you tablets to prevent indigestion. If patients are prone to "spots" or acne this can be made worse. Likewise they can temporarily upset diabetes or high blood pressure.


Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.

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