Medications for Treating Prostate Cancer
Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that removes hormones or blocks their action and stops cancer cells from growing. Hormones are substances produced by glands in the body and circulated in the bloodstream. Some hormones can cause certain cancers to grow. If tests show that the cancer cells have places where hormones can attach (receptors), drugs, surgery, or radiation therapy are used to reduce the production of hormones or block them from working.
Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer Treatment
Hormone therapy used in the treatment of prostate cancer may include the following:
- Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone agonists can prevent the testicles from producing testosterone. Examples are leuprolide, goserelin, and buserelin.
- Antiandrogens can block the action of androgens (hormones that promote male sex characteristics). Two examples are flutamide and nilutamide.
- Drugs that can prevent the adrenal glands from making androgens include ketoconazole and aminoglutethimide.
- Orchiectomy is a surgical procedure to remove one or both testicles, the main source of male hormones, to decrease hormone production.
- Estrogens (hormones that promote female sex characteristics) can prevent the testicles from producing testosterone. However, estrogens are seldom used today in the treatment of prostate cancer because of the risk of serious side effects.
It is common to use hormone therapy to treat advanced prostate cancer. This therapy may stop the growth of advanced prostate cancer, or relieve symptoms in men with advanced disease. Hormone therapy drugs must be given by injection, on a monthly basis.
Side Effects Associated with Hormone Therapy
- Low testosterone levels following treatment with hormone therapy may result in:
- Hot flashes
- Loss of sexual desire and function (so-called “castrating effects”)
- Weakened bones
After treatment with hormone therapy is completed, testosterone levels will rise. When they reach a normal level (generally around 300), these symptoms should improve or disappear.
The castrating effects of hormone therapy are only present as long as the patient stays on the medication. If the medication is discontinued, testosterone levels will rise and the castrating effects will be reversed, though in some men this return to function occurs very slowly.
PSA Results Following Hormone Therapy – What They Mean
A dramatic decrease in PSA following treatment with hormone therapy indicates that many of the cancer cells have been killed, however, others still remain but may be dormant. This is especially true if a cancer has spread to other organs such as the bones.
Effectiveness of Hormone Therapy Over Time
The effect of the treatment can last for years, but continued follow up to assess the status of the disease is important. Tumor cells will often emerge that grow in the absence of testosterone so the therapy becomes ineffective with time.
Hormone therapy alone will not eradicate all the cancer cells, however, further treatment with radiation has the potential for doing so. Following treatment with hormone therapy, radiation can be preformed any time thereafter. Some urologists and radiotherapists prefer to wait a few months to permit shrinkage of the gland, however, this decision would be based on the size of the gland at the time of the diagnosis.
Source: National Cancer Institute – Prostate Cancer Treatment Overview
More articles about prostate cancer:
- Risk Factors
- Diagnosis and Staging
- PSA Testing
- Biopsy of the Prostate
- Treatment Options
- Surgical Treatments
- Radiation Treatment
- Back to the Prostate Cancer Overview
For more information:
Go to the Prostate Cancer health topic.