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Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Androgens are male hormones. Androgens such as testosterone are made in the testicles. Prostate cancer cells need androgens to grow. Reducing the amount of androgens in the body or blocking prostate cancer cells from using them can help treat prostate cancer. This therapy does not cure the cancer, but it can help control it. It may be used alone. Or it may be used with other treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, to help make this treatment more effective. Read below to learn more about this treatment.

How the therapy is done

Hormone therapy can be done with:

  • LHRH (GnRH) agonists or antagonists. These are medicines that stop the testicles from making androgens. These are injected into a muscle or just under the skin. This is done every few weeks or months. Or they may be given with a small device put under the skin on the inside of the arm. This implant gives a steady dose of medicine over time. LHRH agonists and antagonists are often used with anti-androgens (see below).

  • Anti-androgens. These are medicines that stop cancer cells from using androgens as a way to grow. These come in pill form and are taken by mouth. They are often used along with other forms of hormone therapy.

  • CYP17 inhibitors. These slow the amount of hormones made in prostate cancer cells and other body cells. They are given as pills. They are often used along with other forms of hormone therapy.

  • Other medicines. These may include estrogens or antifungal medicines. These can also help lower the levels of androgens in the body. They are used less often than the medicines listed above.

  • Orchiectomy. This is surgery to remove the testicles. This stops the body from making most androgens. Artificial (prosthetic) testicles can be placed afterward to give the look of real testicles.

Possible side effects 

Side effects are similar for most types of hormone therapy, but they can vary a bit between medicines. Possible side effects can include:

  • Bone thinning (osteoporosis)

  • Breast-area tenderness or growth

  • Changes in facial hair

  • Decrease in size of penis and testicles

  • Diarrhea

  • Hair loss

  • Inability to get or keep an erection

  • Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes

  • Less interest in sex

  • Loss of muscle

  • Low red blood cell count (anemia)

  • Mood changes, such as depression, irritability, or anxiety

  • Nausea

  • Sudden increase in body heat (hot flashes)

  • Tiredness

  • Trouble with memory and concentration

  • Weight gain

Coping with side effects

Some of the side effects are temporary. Others are more long-lasting. This depends on the type of hormone therapy used, and how it affects your body. Most side effects of orchiectomy are permanent. Your healthcare provider can tell you more. To help cope with side effects, try the tips below.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. He or she may prescribe medicines that can help you feel better and reduce problems.

  • If you have hot flashes, don’t take hot showers. Don’t use hot tubs or saunas.

  • Don’t eat spicy food or drink alcohol. Don’t have caffeine.

  • Get regular physical activity.

  • Eat a healthy diet.

  • Keep mentally active.

  • Work with your partner to manage sexual changes.

  • Try counseling or support groups.

Follow-up care

During the course of your treatment, you’ll have regular visits with your healthcare provider. You may also have tests. These let your healthcare provider check your health and see how well the treatment is working. After treatment ends, you and your healthcare provider will discuss the results. You’ll also discuss whether you need additional cancer treatments.

Resources

For more information about cancer and treatment, visit the websites listed below:

Online Medical Reviewer: Alteri, Rick, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Last Review Date: 5/1/2017
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