Should You Use Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer?

After surgery and radiation therapy, the use of hormone therapy is another common choice for the main treatment of prostate cancer. Generally, it is used to modify the production of testosterone, a hormone that can feed the cancerous cells in the prostate to grow. There are several factors that affect the decision of your doctor in using this kind of cancer treatment.

Side effects

As many other things in cancer treatment, the use of hormone therapy for cancer of prostate could carry the risk of some side effects, too.

But in general, the benefits of using the treatment should outweigh the risk of potential side effects. You and your doctor can discuss about this issue before you take hormone treatment.

Since there are some types of medicines for hormone therapy, the side effects also can vary from medicine to medicine. But they are categorized into two main groups, short term and long term side effects.

Short term side effects

  1. ED (impotence), it is a common side effect after taking some medicines for hormone therapy, especially for those that can completely stop the production of testosterone. The problem improves once you stop taking the medicine, but this prognosis can vary (typically depending on the kind of medicine you take and how long you take it).
  2. Weakness and tired, another common side effect. To cope with it, there are some helpful approaches. These include doing gentle exercise most days of the week, getting adequate rest each day, and sticking with a well-balanced diet.
  3. Hot flashes, this symptom is similar to one that goes during menopause. It should improve as you get used to the medicine. Some lifestyle approaches can help. These include not drinking coffee & tea, avoid nicotine, and keep far away from anything that can make you overheated.
  4. Prostate cancer can cause pain, but it can get worse when you start taking hormone therapy and this is often called as tumor flare pain. Fortunately, there are some medicines that can help cope with it.
  5. Tenderness of breast. It is usually a consequence from high dose of medicine for hormone treatment. Like in tumor flare pain, some medicines are available to help ease this tenderness.

Long term side effects

  1. Some patients find that they experience problems of difficulty remembering, difficulty concentrating, or other memory problems. If you do find that memory changes are causing a significant impact on your daily routine, talk to your specialist or doctor!
  2. In long term, taking hormone treatment might increase the risk of having earlier heart attack. Some studies show that elderly men (older than 65) with hormone therapy for six months or longer may have increased risk of heart problems. Therefore, make sure to tell your doctor if you have any issues related to your heart before taking the treatment!
  3. The risk of osteoporosis! The use of hormone treatment in long term can pose the risk of bone fracture. Before and after taking the treatment, your specialist may ask you to take certain test (such as DEXA test) to measure the strength of your bone and mineral density. If you are at risk of osteoporosis, vitamin D and calcium supplements can be prescribed. Other lifestyle approaches such as avoid smoking, restrict alcohol, and do regular exercise (weight-bearing exercise) can help, too.
  4. The treatment may affect your mood, causing mood swings or even depression. The best way to cope with the problem is by talking to your partner. If this is not helpful enough, you can consider taking counseling with a counselor.

When you need to use hormone therapy for prostate cancer?

Hormone is naturally found in our body. It is essential for some body’s functions, such as for controlling the activity & growth of our healthy cells.

image_illustration273As mentioned before, it’s thought that cancerous cells in the prostate depend on testosterone, a male hormone. These abnormal cells use testosterone for their nutrient supply to grow.

For this reason, doctors think that reducing the amount of this hormone can inhibit the growth of the cancer or reduce the risk of the cancer from returning after the treatment. Even if necessary, sometimes doctors may need to completely stop the testosterone production.

Hormone treatment is commonly considered powerful enough to get rid of some prostate cancer symptoms and control the progression of the cancer. But after a few years, sometime there is a time of when the cancerous cells become resistant to the treatment. If this occurs, the use of hormone treatment may be no longer effective.

In general, the stage and other factors that affect the way of ‘how fast your prostate cancer spreads and becomes aggressive’ can play a key role in whether or not you need to take hormone therapy!