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Prostate Cancer Treatment Hormone Therapy Side Effects

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Options In Hormone Therapy

Reducing Side Effects of Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer | Prostate Cancer Staging Guide

Testosterone levels in the body can be reduced either surgically or with drugs. The surgical option is castration, achieved by removing the testicles during a bilateral orchiectomy. Once the only option, it has since been supplanted by drugs that lower testosterone levels to amounts achieved by surgery.

For men, normal testosterone levels range from 300 to 1,000 ng/dl. The FDA requires that any new drug used in hormone therapy for prostate cancer lower testosterone levels to 50 ng/dl or less. In my practice, I usually try to lower levels even further, to 20 ng/dl.

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Remission And The Chance Of Recurrence

A remission is when cancer cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms. This may also be called having no evidence of disease or NED.

A remission can be temporary or permanent. This uncertainty causes many people to worry that the cancer will come back. Although there are treatments to help prevent a recurrence, such as hormonal therapy and radiation therapy, it is important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the cancer returning. There are tools your doctor can use, called nomograms, to estimate someones risk of recurrence. Understanding your risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the cancer does return. Learn more about coping with the fear of recurrence.

In general, following surgery or radiation therapy, the PSA level in the blood usually drops. If the PSA level starts to rise again, it may be a sign that the cancer has come back. If the cancer returns after the original treatment, it is called recurrent cancer.

When this occurs, a new cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence, including where the recurrence is located. The cancer may come back in the prostate , in the tissues or lymph nodes near the prostate , or in another part of the body, such as the bones, lungs, or liver . Sometimes the doctor cannot find a tumor even though the PSA level has increased. This is known as a PSA recurrence or biochemical recurrence.

What Is Hormone Therapy For Cancer

Also referred to as hormonal or endocrine therapy, this cancer treatment is different from menopausal hormone replacement therapy , which refers to the prescription of supplemental hormones to help relieve the symptoms of menopause.

Certain cancers rely on hormones to grow. In these cases, hormone therapy may slow or stop their spread by blocking the bodys ability to produce these particular hormones or changing how hormone receptors behave in the body.

Breast and prostate cancers are the two types most commonly treated with hormone therapy. Most breast cancers have either estrogen or progesterone receptors, or both, which means they need these hormones to grow and spread. By contrast, prostate cancer needs testosterone and other male sex hormones, such as dihydrotestosterone , to grow and spread. Hormone therapy may help make these hormones less available to growing cancer cells.

Hormone therapy is available via pills, injection or surgery that removes hormone-producing organs, namely the ovaries in women and the testicles in men. Its typically recommended along with other cancer treatments.

If hormone therapy is part of your treatment plan, discuss potential risks or side effects with your care team so that you know what to expect and can take steps to reduce them. Let doctors know about all your other medications to avoid interactions.

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Different Approaches To Starting Hormone Therapy

Experts debate how early treatment with hormone therapy should be started. Some argue that the benefits of hormone therapy for prostate cancer should be offered to men earlier in the course of the disease. Others assert that there’s little evidence that getting treatment early is better than getting it later.

“Unfortunately, there are still some doctors who are offering hormonal therapy earlier in the course of the disease than is commonly recommended,” Brooks says. Given that the side effects can be serious, Brooks argues that starting treatment with hormone therapy so early may not be a good idea.

However, Holden argues that early treatment may be helpful. “I think one of the reasons that the death rate from prostate cancer is going down is that we’re using hormone therapy early,” he tells WebMD. “We haven’t proved that early treatment improves overall survival yet, but I think we will.”

Researchers are also looking at “intermittent therapy,” starting and stopping hormone treatment for months at a time. The big advantage is that men could go off therapy temporarily and thus be free of the side effects. Early study results have been promising.

Systemic Therapy For Metastatic Disease

Side effects of hormone therapy

The most common use of hormone therapy today is to treat men whose prostate cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. If prostate cancer cells escape the prostate, they migrate first to surrounding structures, such as the seminal vesicles and lymph nodes, and later to the bones or, rarely, to other soft tissues.

Hormone therapy is recommended as a palliative treatment, to relieve symptoms such as bone pain. And while hormone therapy is not a cure, in that it cant eliminate prostate cancer completely, it often extends life for many years. By reducing testosterone levels, hormone therapy can shrink a prostate tumor and its metastases and slow further progression of the cancer for so long that sometimes a man with this disease dies of something other than prostate cancer.

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What Is Hormone Therapy

Hormones occur naturally in your body. They control the growth and activity of normal cells. Testosterone is a male hormone mainly made by the testicles.

Prostate cancer usually depends on testosterone to grow. Hormone therapy blocks or lowers the amount of testosterone in the body.

Hormone therapy on its own doesn’t cure prostate cancer. But it can lower the risk of an early prostate cancer coming back when you have it with other treatments. Or it can shrink an advanced prostate cancer or slow its growth.

Hot Flushes And Sweating

Hot flushes and sweating can be troublesome. They may last for 2 to 30 minutes and you may have a few a month or more often. They are the same as the hot flushes women have when going through menopause.

Lowered testosterone levels cause hot flushes. They are most likely to happen when taking LHRH agonists, also called LH blockers , because these drugs cut testosterone production off altogether.

Getting overheated, drinking tea or coffee, and smoking can all make flushes worse.

They may gradually get better as you get used to the treatment. But, in some men the flushes keep on happening as long as you take the drug.

Talk to your doctor or clinical nurse specialist if you have problems coping with hot flushes and sweating. There are treatments that may help.

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Continuous Adt Beats Out Intermittent Adt

The late-stage international study involved men with hormone-sensitive cancers that had spread beyond the prostate. All were given androgen deprivation therapy with Zoladex and Casodex for seven months. Men who responded were divided into two groups, with one staying on continuous ADT and the other getting intermittent treatment. They were tracked for an average of more than nine years.

Results showed that âsurvival with intermittent hormone therapy was inferior to survival with continuous hormone therapy,â Hussain says.

Men given continuous therapy lived an average of nearly six years, compared with about five years for men getting intermittent therapy.

Men with minimal disease spread on continuous therapy lived an average of about seven years vs. five years for those treated intermittently â a striking two-year difference, Hussain says.

Among men with more extensive disease spread, the gap in survival narrowed: about four-and-a-half years for continuous therapy vs. five years for intermittent treatment.

But Hussain says that even these men should not be offered treatment breaks, as further study is needed.

Overall, the men who got the stop-and-start treatment received about half the amount of hormone therapy as men who got continual ADT, says researcher David I. Quinn, MBBS, PhD, of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

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When Is Hormone Therapy Used

Prostate Cancer Hormone Side Effects

Hormone therapy may be used:

  • If the cancer has spread too far to be cured by surgery or radiation, or if you cant have these treatments for some other reason
  • If the cancer remains or comes back after treatment with surgery or radiation therapy
  • Along with radiation therapy as the initial treatment, if you are at higher risk of the cancer coming back after treatment
  • Before radiation to try to shrink the cancer to make treatment more effective

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How Does Hormone Therapy Work

Hormone therapy for prostate cancer works by either preventing the body from making these androgens or by blocking their effects. Either way, the hormone levels drop, and the cancer’s growth slows.

Testosterone and other hormones are like fertilizer for cancer cells,” Holden tells WebMD. “If you take them away, the cancer goes into shock, and some of the cells die.”

In 85% to 90% of cases of advanced prostate cancer, hormone therapy can shrink the tumor.

However, hormone therapy for prostate cancer doesn’t work forever. The problem is that not all cancer cells need hormones to grow. Over time, these cells that aren’t reliant on hormones will spread. If this happens, hormone therapy won’t help anymore, and your doctor will need to shift to a different treatment approach.

Considering Prostate Cancer Treatment Options

For most men diagnosed with prostate cancer, the cancer is found while its still at an early stage its small and has not spread beyond the prostate gland. These men often have several treatment options to consider.

Not every man with prostate cancer needs to be treated right away. If you have early-stage prostate cancer, there are many factors such as your age and general health, and the likelihood that the cancer will cause problems for you to consider before deciding what to do. You should also think about the possible side effects of treatment and how likely they are to bother you. Some men, for example, may want to avoid possible side effects such as incontinence or erection problems for as long as possible. Other men are less concerned about these side effects and more concerned about removing or destroying the cancer.

If youre older or have other serious health problems and your cancer is slow growing , you might find it helpful to think of prostate cancer as a chronic disease that will probably not lead to your death but may cause symptoms you want to avoid. You may think more about watchful waiting or active surveillance, and less about treatments that are likely to cause major side effects, such as radiation and surgery. Of course, age itself is not necessarily the best reason for your choice. Many men are in good mental and physical shape at age 70, while some younger men may not be as healthy.

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What Is Unique About Receiving Hormone Therapy At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers

At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, your cancer care team will design a personalized cancer treatment plan that provides the ideal combination of therapies for the best possible outcome. Under our care, you will be monitored closely to determine if your hormone therapy is working. This involves regular PSA tests for prostate cancer treatment and regular checkups for breast cancer treatment.

Rest assured, you are in good hands with Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers. We believe in treating the whole person, not just the disease, which is why we will work hard to create the best cancer treatment plan for you.

Are There Side Effects With Hormone Therapy

All The Deets on Prostate Cancer No One Ever Told You

Yes, there are side effects or unwanted changes in your body caused by hormone therapy. Side effects are different from person to person, and may be different from one treatment to the next. Some people have no or very mild side effects. The good news is that there are ways to deal with most of the side effects. The side effects that you have depend on:

The side effects you have from hormone therapy may be acute or chronic. Acute side effects are sometimes called “early side effects.” These types of side effects happen soon after the treatment begins and usually go away after you finish your hormone therapy. Other side effects are called chronic side effects or “late side effects.” These side effects may happen several months after you start hormone therapy.

In order to reduce your chance of having side effects, your doctor may give you intermittent hormone therapy. If you are on intermittent hormone therapy, your doctor and health care team will carefully watch your PSA level. As it begins to go up, you are given hormone therapy medicine to lower your PSA. Another way for you to get intermittent hormone therapy is to take a medicine for a set period of time and then stop for a set period of time. For example, you may take a medicine for six months, stop for six months, and then start again for six months.

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Intermittent Hormonal Therapy For Locally Advanced Prostate Cancer

Intermittent hormonal therapy is where you stop taking the drugs and after a while start taking them again. This may be an option for locally-advanced prostate cancer. It gives you a break from the side effects of hormonal therapy.

Intermittent hormonal therapy is not suitable for everyone and should only be done on your doctors advice. Your doctor can explain more about this. They usually measure your PSA level using the PSA test every 3 months. If it goes up to a certain level or you get symptoms, your doctor will advise you to start hormonal therapy again.

Dealing With Common Side Effects

Your treatment team can tell you about the side effects that are most common with your specific treatment and may be able to give you medicines to prevent or relieve side effects or suggest other ways to manage side effects. For general advice, see the see the symptom management section.

Almost all men receiving hormone therapy experience hot flashes. Hot flashes may get better or even go away over time, but if hot flashes are a problem for you, ask your doctor about medications or alternative-medicine approaches to help alleviate them.

Hormone therapy lowers the level of both testosterone and estrogen, which maintains bone strength. Men who receive hormone therapy for prolonged periods may develop bone thinning, which can lead to osteoporosis and broken bones. Your doctor may follow the density of your bones using a DEXA scan during hormone therapy and, if appropriate, prescribe medications to prevent complications from osteoporosis. In addition, diet and exercise can help keep your bones strong.

Hormone therapy can decrease muscle mass and increase the percentage of body fat, increasing body weight overall. It can also increase your risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and high cholesterol. Talk with your doctor about how to modify your diet and what exercise is appropriate to prevent these complications or reduce your risk. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance also has nutrition services to help you optimize your nutritional health during and after treatment.

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How Many Times Can You Have Hormone Treatment For Prostate Cancer

ADT is usually the first type of hormone therapy people will receive for prostate cancer.

If ADT stops working, people may receive further hormone therapy with different types of treatment, such as androgen receptor blockers or androgen synthesis inhibitors.

People may have hormone therapy in combination with other treatments, such as chemotherapy. Doctors will monitor how they respond to treatment and decide whether to continue hormone therapy or try a different treatment.

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Why Does Hormone Therapy Cause Side Effects

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If testosterone is taken away or blocked by hormone therapy, prostate cancer cells will usually shrink, wherever they are in the body. But reducing or blocking testosterone can cause other things to change in your body too.

Testosterone controls the development and growth of the sexual organs, including the prostate, and affects the way you think and feel. It also controls other male characteristics, such as erections and muscle strength. So when testosterone is reduced, or taken away by hormone therapy, all of these things can change.

The diagram below shows how testosterone affects a man’s body. Knowing this can help you understand what side effects you might get when you’re having hormone therapy.

The side effects of hormone therapy are caused by lowered testosterone levels. Side effects will usually last for as long as you are on hormone therapy. If you stop your hormone therapy, your testosterone levels will gradually rise again and some side effects will reduce. Your side effects wont stop as soon as you finish hormone therapy it may take several months.

Surgery to remove the testicles cant be reversed, so the side effects are permanent. But there are treatments that can help reduce or manage some of the side effects.

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If Youre Having Radiation Therapy To The Pelvis

Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause side effects such as:

  • Bladder problems
  • Fertility problems
  • Changes in your sex life

You might also have some of the same problems people get from radiation to the abdomen, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.

Bladder problems

Radiation to the pelvis can cause problems with urination, including:

  • Pain or burning sensations
  • Blood in the urine
  • An urge to urinate often

Most of these problems get better over time, but radiation therapy can cause longer-term side effects as well:

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