Hormonal Therapy

What is Hormonal Therapy?

Prostate cancer cells rely on the male hormone testosterone to help them grow. Hormonal therapy uses drugs to block or lower testosterone and other male sex hormones that fuel cancer. This can stop or slow growth and spread of cancer. It is used for men who choose not to have other therapies. It is also used for men who cannot be treated with other therapies.

Reducing testosterone production can be achieved surgically or through the use of medications.

  • Surgery: Testosterone levels can be reduced by removing the testicles, a procedure called an orchiectomy.
  • Medication to reduce the production of testosterone: Injecting medications called luteinizing hormone releasing hormones (LH-RHs) suppresses the body's natural production of testosterone.
  • An additional option that blocks the effects of all male hormones: In this treatment option, an orchiectomy or LH-RH treatment is combined with medications called non-steroidal anti-androgens - drugs that block testosterone from the prostate and adrenal gland from reaching cancer cells. This combination adds additional block aid to male hormone effects on the growth of prostate cancer cells.

What Are The Benefits, Risks and Side Effects of Hormone Therapy?

The major side effects of hormone therapy are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hot flashes
  • Anemia
  • Lethargy
  • Osteoporosis
  • Swollen and tender breasts
  • Erectile dysfunction

Hormone therapy has also been linked to heart disease and increased risk of heart attack, as well as potential increased risks of developing diabetes. If your cancer is resistant to hormonal treatments, you and your doctor may discuss chemotherapy, which consists of single drugs or a combination of several medications aimed at killing the cancer cells.

Who are Good Candidates for Hormone Therapy?

If you do not want or cannot have other prostate cancer treatments this is the best option for you. If you have this treatment you must not have heart disease or diabetes.