About Hormone Therapy For Prostate Cancer

If you have been prescribed hormone treatment for prostate cancer, it is important that you know how it works, the effects that it will have on your cancer and on your body in general, including side effects that may be troublesome or painful.

The Feel+® programme is designed to help you live with any potential side effects of hormone therapy by helping you know what to expect and make some simple lifestyle changes that could help to reduce or compensate for some of them. Knowing what you may experience during hormone treatment for prostate cancer is a vital starting point.

How Does Hormone Therapy For Prostate Cancer Work?

The renewal of prostate cells depends, in particular, on the action of the well-known male hormone, testosterone. Hormone therapy aims to lower a patient’s testosterone levels in the body either by stopping the production of the hormone or by blocking its action on the cancer cells. Deprived of testosterone, prostate cancer cells – whether they are healthy or cancerous –will enter a self-destruction process called apoptosis and die. As hormone therapy for prostate cancer works against the action of testosterone, perhaps we ought to call it anti-hormone treatment!

When Is Hormone Therapy Prescribed?

The use of hormone therapy is common in the management of prostate cancer. The most common situations when hormone treatment may be appropriate are given below. 

Do not deduce anything personal from this list; ask your doctor or nurse to explain your own situation to you.

Below are some situations when hormone therapy for prostate cancer may be used.

  • In combination with external radiotherapy. This is normally when the cancer is assessed as being localised aggressive prostate cancer or locally advanced prostate cancer.
  • When the PSA level (the key indicator measured in a blood sample) increases rapidly (and only rapidly) after radiotherapy or surgery for prostate cancer.
  • After the surgical removal of the prostate (via radical prostatectomy) when it is noted that the lymph nodes have been invaded by cancer cells.
  • When there is evidence that cancer cells have started to spread around the body and in some cases, prior to surgery or radiotherapy in order to reduce the size of the cancer to make these treatments possible.

Does Hormone Therapy Cause Side Effects?

Hormone therapy may induce side effects that more or less resemble the discomfort felt by women during the menopause including:

  • Weight gain and localised fat mass
  • Hot flushes
  • Melancholy or even depression, and
  • Decreased libido

How your body reacts to treatment will be different to how someone else may react, however, and they are, at least to some extent, often avoidable.

By participating in the Feel+ programme you will learn how to recognise and monitor for these side effects. You will also learn how small changes in lifestyle may help you to compensate for, or reduce, the frequency of these side effects.

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