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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 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 surgery or radiation therapy to help make these treatments more effective. Read below to learn more about this treatment.

How the Therapy Is Done

Lowering the amount of androgens in the body can be done with:

  • LHRH or GnRH agonists. These are medications 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 for 1 to 2 years. Or they may be given with a small device put in the skin on the inside of the arm. This implant gives a steady dose of medication over time. LHRH and GnRH agonists are often used with anti-androgens (see below).

  • Anti-androgens. These are medications 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 taken along with LHRH or GnRH agonists.

  • Other medications. These may include corticosteroids, estrogen, or anti-fungal medications. These can also help lower the levels of androgens in the body. They are used less often than the medications listed above.

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

Possible Side Effects of Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer 

  • Hot flashes (sudden increase in body heat)

  • Fatigue (tiredness)

  • Less interest in sex

  • Inability to get or keep an erection

  • Mood changes such as depression, irritability, or anxiety

  • Loss of muscle

  • Increased appetite

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Weight gain

  • Breast-area tenderness or growth

  • Hair loss

  • Bone loss

Coping with Side Effects

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

  • Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. He or she may prescribe medications that can help you feel better and reduce problems.

  • Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and hot showers.

  • Avoid spicy food, alcohol, and caffeine.

  • Exercise and do other physical activity.

  • Eat a healthy diet.

  • Keep mentally active.

  • Work with your partner to manage sexual changes.

  • Try counseling or support groups.

Checking Your Progress

During the course of your treatment, you’ll have routine visits with your doctor. You may also have tests. These allow your doctor to check your health and response to the treatment. After treatment ends, you and your doctor will discuss your treatment results. You’ll also discuss whether you need additional cancer treatments.

 

Risks and Possible Complications of Hormone Therapy Include:

  • Damage to healthy tissue and organs

  • Failure to slow the growth of cancer cells

  • Bone fractures

  • Higher cholesterol

  • Trouble concentrating or memory problems

  • Shrinking of penis or testicles

  • Anemia (not enough red blood cells)

  • Increased blood sugar levels

  • Problems with the heart or liver

 

Resources

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

  • American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org

  • National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov

  • Malecare, malecare.org

Online Medical Reviewer: Cohen, Richard, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Eisenberg, Seth, RN, OCN
Last Review Date: 11/15/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.