Advanced prostate cancer is a complex condition. There are a wide range of treatment options available, such as endocrine therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. It’s best to talk with your doctor about your particular needs before developing a treatment plan. If you and your doctor decide that Provenge is right for you, talk to him about what to expect during the treatment. Provenge (sipuleucel-T) is a type of immunotherapy. It utilizes your body’s own cells to create the drug, which directly targets the cancer cells. Provenge and other types of cancer treatments do carry the risk of serious side effects. However, just 1.5% of patients stopped treatment due to side effects of Provenge. Most patients experience side effects during the treatment or shortly thereafter.
Common side effects of Provenge
These are some of the most common side effects that Provenge may cause, which means that they occurred in 30% or more patients. They include loss of appetite, fatigue, fever, chills, and back pain.
Additionally, patients can also experience infusion reactions that occur during or within one day of receiving an infusion of Provenge. These reactions can include chills, fever, shortness of breath, fatigue, an increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, and bronchospasm, which refers to constriction of the airways that can result in chest pain and wheezing. About 3.5% of patients experienced serious infusion reactions in clinical trials.
Less common side effects of Provenge
Less common side effects of Provenge occurred in about 10% to 29% of patients. These may include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and flu-like symptoms, usually within two days after receiving an infusion. Anemia, general pain, and myalgia (muscle pain) have also been reported. Some patients also experienced citrate toxicity. Citrate is used in infusions to prevent blood clotting, which can result in decreased calcium and magnesium levels. Your doctor can decrease the risk of citrate toxicity during infusions by slowing the rate of the infusion.
When to contact your doctor
If you have any concerns about your Provenge treatment and any side effects that you have experienced, it’s always best to contact your doctor. Some side effects may require immediate medical attention, such as breathing problems, a severe headache, and a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Always call 911 if you might have signs of a stroke, such as confusion, slurred speech, facial droop, or one-sided weakness.
Other possible side effects of Provenge do require medical attention, but not necessarily right away. Contact your doctor within a day or as soon as possible if you experience an irregular heartbeat, significant muscle aches, high blood pressure, dizziness, or severe chills. As well, call him if you experience unrelenting nausea that interferes with eating or if you vomit more than four to five times within a day.
Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.