What is it?

There are a number of different types of steroids used in treating haematological diseases. Dexamethasone, prednisolone and hydrocortisone are the most commonly used ones. Steroids are naturally produced by the body and taking them as a form of medication can have several beneficial effects.


What is it used for?

Steroids have useful anti-inflammatory effects and are used alongside other chemotherapy drugs to treat myeloma and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. At a low dose dexamethasone is a good anti-sickness medication and can boost appetite.


How do steroids work?

In addition to having an anti-inflammatory effect steroids can affect which new proteins a cell makes. This has a wide ranging effect and can help slow cell growth.


How are they given?

Dexamethasone is most commonly given by mouth as a tablet. However it can also be injected into muscle or injected into a vein. Dexamethasone is usually given alongside other medication. Prednisolone is given as a tablet, and hydrocortisone is usually given as an injection into a vein.


What are the most important side effects?

Steroids can irritate the lining of the stomach so if you are suffering with acid reflux or stomach pains let your doctor know. It is also important to let your doctor know if you are diabetic as steroids can raise your sugar levels, your diabetic medication therefore may need altering.

Steroids at a higher dose can dampen down the immune system making the body more vulnerable to infections. This is particularly important to be aware of if taking steroids alongside chemotherapy. Please read the neutropenic sepsis page for further information.

There are other side effects which become more of an issue if steroids are taken for a prolonged period of time. Usually in treating haematology conditions this is not a significant issue as steroids are not given over a prolonged time course.


Further information

Steroids at Macmillian cancer support



Info icon

Written by: Dr T Rider

Editor: Dr J Newman

Back to information index