Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Produced mainly in the testicles, male hormones such as testosterone cause prostate cancer cells to grow. Reducing hormone levels can sometimes make the prostate cancer shrink or slow its growth.
The goal of hormone therapy is to lower the level of male hormones in the body. Hormone therapy does not cure the cancer and is often used to treat people whose cancer has spread or recurred after treatment.
There are several types of hormone therapy, including the following:
- Orchiectomy - the surgical removal of the testicles to prevent the male hormones that stimulate growth of the prostate cancer from being produced.
- LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone) analogs - drugs that decrease the amount of testosterone produced in a man's body by interfering with the normal chemical signals sent from the pituitary gland in the brain to the testicles. Drugs include Lupron®, Viadur®, Eligard®, Zoladex®, and TrelstarTM.
- LHRH antagonist - a drug that also lowers teststerone levels but may cause fewer problems when first given than LHRH analogs. It is given by injection under the skin. The only LHRH antagonist used at this time is Firmagon.
- Anti-androgens - substances that block the body's ability to use androgens (male hormones), because even after orchiectomy or LHRH-analog treatment, a small amount of androgens may still be produced in the body. Other hormonal drugs may be used for periods of time during treatment. Drugs include Eulexin®, Casodex®, and NilandronTM..
As each man's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team any/all possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.
Possible side effects of hormone therapy for prostate cancer may include:
- Hot flashes
- A degree of impotence (inability to achieve or maintain an erection)
- Diminished libido (desire for sex)
- Enlargement of the breasts
- Bone thinning
- Weight gain
The duration of hormone therapy varies, depending on the individual situation and why it is being used. For men with locally advanced prostate cancer (cancer that has spread outside the gland), long-term hormone therapy (at least two years) may control the disease better than short-term hormone therapy. For more advanced prostate cancer, hormone therapy may be used for as long as it continues to be effective. Always talk with your doctor for more information on hormone therapy treatment.