Chemotherapy is the treatment modality that employs drugs to kill cancer cells. The drugs enter the bloodstream and travel through the body in order to kill cancer cells. The side effects of chemotherapy come from the fact that the drugs destroy normal cells, as well.

Chemotherapy for testicular cancer usually involves some combination of bleomycin, etoposide, cisplatin, ifosfamide, and carboplatin. For some tumors, very high-dose chemotherapy (sufficient to eradicate bone marrow cells) is given, followed by stem cell transplant.

Chemotherapy is usually given by vein, but some forms can be given by mouth as well. Your oncologist will tell you how many cycles or courses of chemotherapy are best for you. Usually there are between 3-4 cycles of chemotherapy given when the chemotherapy is the only form of treatment.

The side effects and amount of time required in the doctor’s office depend on the type of chemotherapy you receive, as well as how many cycles you receive and how often. The most common chemotherapy-associated side effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Hair loss
  • Cough or shortness of breath
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

Most of these side effects are temporary, though some may be permanent. Discuss the implications of chemotherapy side effects with your oncologist.

Chemotherapy is given primarily after surgery in the treatment of nonseminomas. Sometimes it is also given if a seminoma is very large or it has spread to the lung, brain, or other organs.