Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer

bigstock Portrait of man riding cycle i 13905104Hormone therapy is a powerful tool for treating prostate cancer. It works by halting production of testosterone in the body, which causes prostate cancer cells to die or grow more slowly. In patients with advanced prostate cancer, hormone therapy may shrink tumors and slow advancement of the disease. In patients with early-stage cancer, hormone therapy may be used prior to other cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy, to improve final results.

 

The most common types of hormone therapy work in one of three ways.

  1. Medications that halt the body’s production of testosterone
    These drugs are called luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LH-RH) agonists. They are typically given as an injection or an implant under the skin.

  2. Medications that block testosterone from reaching prostate cancer cells
    These drugs are called anti-androgens, and they are taken by mouth in pill or liquid form.

  3. Surgical removal of the testicles (orchiectomy)
    Most of the body’s testosterone is produced in the testicles, so removing the testicles can slow the progression of prostate cancer and shrink tumors.

Side effects

Each patient’s reaction to hormone therapy will be different. Some men experience no negative reactions to treatment, others experience many side effects.

The side effects of hormone therapy depend on the type of hormone therapy, the dosage of medication and the patient’s overall health. They may include the following.
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Hot flashes
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of bone mass
  • Shrinkage of the sex organs
  • Loss of muscle strength
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Heart problems
Your physician will balance the possible side effects with the chances of improvement, before recommending hormone therapy.

Hormone therapy alone isn’t a cure for prostate cancer. However, it can shrink tumors and slow disease progression. Paired with other interventions, it can reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and extend life. For patients with advanced disease, it can help relieve pain and control some adverse symptoms of cancer.

Resources

For more information on hormone therapy, check out the following links.

Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer (video)
Life on Androgen Deprivation Therapy
Canadian Cancer Society

 

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