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Cancer Glossary Cancer Diet Guide Support Groups

Cancer Hormone Therapy

Many people suffer from many different types of cancer, and there are different types of therapies that can be used to treat the cancer depending on the type of cancer that they have and their physician’s instructions. Hormonal therapy is a type of systemic therapy that is most often used by cancer patients as an adjuvant therapy. As an adjuvant treatment, hormone therapy is aimed at decreasing the risk of the cancer returning after surgery has taken place. It is sometimes also used as a neoadjuvant treatment and can be used to treat cancer that has spread, or that has recurred after cancer treatment.   

Preparation for Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy preparation differs depending on the type of cancer that is being treated and the type of hormone therapy that is being performed. Some hormone therapy involves very little preparation because sometimes hormone pills are prescribed which are to be taken according to a physician’s instructions. If the cancer does not respond to hormone pills, then other hormonal therapy methods will sometimes be used, including castration, which involves removing the hormone-producing testicles from male prostate cancer patients who have not responded to other types of cancer treatment. For this type of procedure, instructions will be given regarding how to prepare for testicular surgical removal (also called orchiectomy).  

Procedure: Hormonal therapy procedures differ depending on the type of cancer that is being treated, as well as the procedure itself. Many types of hormone therapy pills are taken once per day, but always follow the instructions given by your physician when taking hormone therapy pills. If an orchiectomy is performed, it involves the complete removal of the testicles, which are where most androgens are produced. When the testicles (the source of these hormones) are removed, most types of prostate cancers will no longer grow or may even shrink over time. Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists (also called LHRH) are a form of hormonal therapy that is administered via monthly injections just beneath the skin.  

Types of Hormone Therapy : Different types of hormonal therapy differ in their approach. Orchiectomy is sometimes used to remove the source of certain types of hormones in men and is a surgery that permanently removes the testicles. Another type of hormone therapy involves the use of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs (also called LHRH). Even though this type of treatment is more costly than orchiectomy and requires more frequent doctor visits, most men prefer this treatment over orchiectomy. LHRH analog treatment is designed to lower the amount of testosterone that is made by the testicles, but allows them to remain in place, although they may eventually shrink to the point that they cannot be detected. Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone antagonists are also sometimes used to treat advanced prostate cancers.

Anti-androgens are another type of hormone treatment and work by blocking the body’s ability to make use of androgens. Anti-androgens are rarely used by themselves, but are often used after orchiectomy and other types of cancer treatments, especially if the cancer treatment is no longer working on its own. When used in conjunction with LHRH analogs, anti-androgen treatment is called combined androgen blockade (also called CAB), and is sometimes used as a first-line hormonal therapy. There are also other types of androgen-suppressing drugs which are used for hormonal therapy treatment in certain types of cancers.  

Recovery Time: For some types of hormonal therapy, such as pills, no recover time is necessary. For other types of hormonal treatment, such as orchiectomy, there may be a minimal recovery time. This surgical procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and your surgeon will give you specific instructions so that you will know what to expect after your surgery.  

Hormone therapy Side Effects: Hormonal therapy risks and side effects include impotence, hot flashes, osteoporosis, breast tenderness, reduced or absent libido, anemia, weight gain, loss of muscle mass, fatigue, depression, increased cholesterol, and decreased mental acuity. The risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and hypertension are higher in men who are treated with hormone therapy. Discuss your treatment options with your physician and then decide if the treatment benefits outweigh the risks and side effects before beginning any hormonal treatments.