Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is used to lessen or eliminate the supply of male hormones in the body in an effort to stop or slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. Male hormones, also called androgens, stimulate prostate cancer cells to grow. The main androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and they are produced primarily in the testicles.

Hormone therapy is also called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and androgen suppression therapy. Hormone therapy does not cure prostate cancer but it can cause it to grow more slowly.

A man with prostate cancer may have hormone therapy before, during or after radiation therapy. Hormone therapy is also used alone for prostate cancer that has returned after treatment.

Hormone therapy is usually used in the following situations:

• To shrink or slow the growth of cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland

• After surgery or radiation to shrink or slow the growth of any cancer cells that remain

• In addition to radiation if a patient is at high risk for recurrence

• In men with early stage prostate cancer before surgery or radiation to try and shrink the cancer to make other treatments more effective

Side effects can include:

  • Reduced or absent libido (sexual desire)
  • Impotence
  • Hot flashes
  • Breast tenderness and growth of breast tissue
  • Osteoporosis (bone thinning), which can lead to broken bones
  • Anemia (low red blood cell counts)
  • Decreased mental acuity
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Depression 
  • Increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and heart attacks

Types of hormone therapy