Hormone Therapy

One treatment for prostate cancer is androgen-deprivation therapy, also called hormone therapy. Androgens, the family of male sex hormones that includes testosterone, fuel the growth of prostate cancer. Stopping the body from making these hormones can, for a time, stop the growth of prostate cancer. But hormone therapy isn’t for everyone, and it can cause some bothersome, even serious, side effects such as hot flashes, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis (thinning of bones), fatigue, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, anemia, and changes in blood cholesterol and glucose levels.

Hormone therapy is an option for men with prostate cancer when:
• cancer has spread beyond the prostate
• cancer is confined to the prostate but doctors want to boost the effectiveness of radiation therapy or shrink a tumor before brachytherapy (seed therapy, a type of radiation)
• PSA begins to rise after treatment with surgery or radiation therapy, an indication that cancer may have recurred.

Related Articles

Long-term hormonal therapy benefits men with locally advanced prostate cancer

Hormonal therapy, also known as androgen-deprivation therapy, can be a powerful weapon in the fight against prostate cancer because it deprives malignant cells of the fuel they need to grow. Androgens — meaning the family of male sex hormones that includes testosterone — contribute to physical characteristics such as a deeper voice, thick facial hair, and increased muscle strength and bone mass. But when prostate cancer develops, testosterone also contributes to tumor growth and progression. Depending on the specific treatment used, hormonal therapy can either stop the body from making testosterone or prevent it from interacting with cancer cells.

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Hormone therapy works best when combined with radiation for locally advanced prostate cancer

Men with locally advanced prostate cancer who combine hormone therapy with a course of radiation therapy tend to live longer than men who only take hormone therapy.

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Hormone therapy plus chemotherapy may boost survival in men with advanced prostate cancer

Combining a chemotherapy drug called docetaxel with hormone therapy (androgen-deprivation therapy) to treat advanced prostate cancer appears to work better than starting with hormone therapy and adding docetaxel later.

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Hormone therapy does not improve survival for men with localized prostate cancer

In men with cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland, radiation therapy plus hormone therapy can ease symptoms and improve survival. But some doctors give hormone therapy by itself to millions of men with localized tumors that haven’t spread beyond the prostate. A new study shows that this approach doesn’t help, and may hurt.

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Degarelix approved for advanced prostate cancer

This injectable form of hormone therapy received FDA approval in December 2008.

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Hormone therapy doesn’t seem to raise risk of cardiac death

Prostate cancer drug treatments that block the activity of hormones have been associated with a higher risk of heart attack and heart disease. But a 2009 study suggests that these drugs may not cause cardiovascular problems after all.

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Continuous vs. intermittent hormone therapy (IHT): No survival difference

Given the beneficial effects and the lack of a survival difference, intermittent hormone therapy may be a preferred regimen for men with advanced prostate cancer.

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Hormone therapy: How long should it last?

A European study finds that mortality is higher among men who pursue hormone therapy for just six months. But the study was conducted in men with relatively large tumors, not small, early-stage tumors, the kind found most often in American men.

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Can hormone therapy cause muscle loss?

I am currently undergoing hormone therapy with leuprolide (Lupron) injections to shrink an enlarged prostate. I believe I’ve noticed some muscle loss. Is this possible?

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Avoiding complications of anti-androgens: A patient’s story

Sixty-five-year-old George Lincoln* never suspected that anything was wrong. Aside from some of the typical side effects of hormone therapy for his prostate cancer, such as fatigue, occasional hot flashes, mild weight gain, and a loss of libido, he felt okay. He didn’t have abdominal pain, nausea, jaundice, or any other symptoms that might indicate a potentially life-threatening problem.

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