Hormone therapy for prostate cancer
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Prostate cancer depends in part on the male hormone testosterone to grow and spread. Hormone therapy can be used to reduce the amount of testosterone made by your testicles.
By reducing the amount of testosterone in your body, the growth of cancer cells can be slowed down or stopped. Hormone therapy is frequently used alongside radiotherapy for locally advanced prostate cancer. These drugs can be given as tablets or injections.
Side-effects of hormone therapy
Hot flushes and sweating
These affect more than half the men who get hormone therapy. Some men find them difficult to cope with. Get some advice on how to manage hormone changes.
Breast swelling and tenderness
This can vary from mild tenderness, with or without swelling, to more noticeable tissue growth around the breast area.
Osteoporosis or bone thinning
Bones can become more brittle and more likely to break (fracture). Read more about bone health.
Weight gain and muscle loss
You may gain weight, particularly around your waist. Your muscle tone and strength can also be reduced.
Extreme tiredness is a common side-effect. Fatigue can affect your energy, mood and concentration. Read more about fatigue and ways to manage.
Mood or concentration problems
Less testosterone can lead to mood changes, poor concentration or memory problems, anxiety and sometimes depression. Therapies like relaxation therapy, meditation or yoga, might help you to cope with these frustrating symptoms or counselling might help. Try your local cancer support centre for helpful therapy classes and free counselling.
Exercise and hormone therapy side-effects
Taking some exercise is a great way to feel better if you are having hormone therapy.
- Help you to keep a healthy weight
- Build up your muscle tone and strength.
- Reduce fatigue
- Help your mood
- Keep your bones healthy
- Reduce the risk of the cancer coming back after treatment.
Always talk to your doctor before starting to exercise so that they can give you advice about the best type of exercise for you. There may be special exercise programmes you can do, such as Exwell or the Irish Cancer Society’s Strides for Life walking groups. Call our Support Line, visit a Daffodil Centre or go to your local cancer support centre to find out what’s available in your area.
Hormone therapy can have a big impact on your sex life. Because hormone therapy reduces the male sex hormone testosterone, it can affect your interest in sex (libido) and your ability to get an erection.
Libido may come back once you stop taking hormone therapy, although it can take many months. Read more about sex and prostate cancer.
Advantages and disadvantages of hormone therapy
- It can control your cancer even if it has spread to other parts of your body.
- It can be used with other treatments such as radiotherapy and make it more effective.
- In advanced prostate cancer it can reduce bone pain and urinary symptoms.
- It can affect your quality of life due to side-effects
- It can keep prostate cancer under control for some time but unfortunately it can’t cure it.
For more information
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