- How Long It Works
- Side Effects
- Different Types
Cancer cells are smart. When faced with a continuous stressor such as chemotherapy or hormone therapy, they eventually evolve and learn evasive maneuvers. When prostate cancer cells grow resistant or become insensitive to hormone therapy, the cancer is referred to as hormone refractory.
Hormone therapy may work to treat prostate cancer for many years. However, it’s only a temporary fix because eventually, the cancer becomes resistant. The risk of resistance goes up if the cancer has taken hold for a long time or if it has relapsed.
How effective is hormone therapy for prostate cancer?
In the initial years of diagnosis, hormone therapy for prostate cancer can help patients with their symptoms and add years to their lives.
For men who need (or will eventually need) hormone therapy, such as men whose prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels are rising after surgery or radiation or men with advanced prostate cancer who don’t yet have symptoms, it’s not always clear when the best time is to start hormone treatment:
- Some doctors think that hormone therapy works better if it’s started as soon as possible, even if the patient feels well and is not exhibiting any symptoms. Studies have shown that hormone treatment may slow down the disease and perhaps even help men live longer.
- Some doctors, however, don't agree with this approach. Because of the side effects and the risk of the cancer becoming resistant to therapy sooner, some doctors feel that treatment should not be started until cancer symptoms appear.
How long does hormone therapy work to stop cancer progression?
On average, hormone therapy can stop cancer progression for 1-2 years before the prostate cancer becomes resistant. Hormone therapy can stop working over time as the prostate cancer begins to grow again (called castrate-resistant prostate cancer).
When this occurs, doctors may offer other therapies. Since they can’t predict how long hormone therapy will work, they may perform regular blood tests to check PSA and testosterone levels. If PSA levels start to increase and testosterone levels are low, these may be signs that the cancer has started to grow again.
What are the limitations of hormone therapy for prostate cancer?
While hormone therapy may help treat prostate cancer, limitations include the following:
- Hormone therapy can cause side effects that can have a significant effect on a patient’s daily life.
- Some side effects, such as breast enlargement, are permanent.
- If used alone, hormone therapy does not cure cancer, but only keeps it under control, sometimes for several years.
What are the side effects of hormone therapy for prostate cancer?
Long-term and excessive use of hormone therapy often cause side effects that require additional care and adapted support.
Side effects can manifest at any point during hormone therapy treatment. Some side effects occur during treatment, whereas others develop immediately after or a few days or even several weeks later. Certain side effects can develop months or even years after treatment. Most side effects will go away once patients finish their hormone therapy.
Short- to medium-term side effects
- Loss of libido (sex drive)
- Erectile dysfunction (inability to have an erection)
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain and muscle loss
- Breast swelling and tenderness
Long-term side effects
- Osteoporosis (bone thinning)
- Changes in male sexual characteristics (shrinking of the testicles)
- Possible increase in the risk of cognitive (concentration and memory) or mood (depression) disorders
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease (Infarction)
- Increased risk of a metabolic syndrome (diabetes, dyslipidemia, obesity, hypertension, etc.)
IMAGESBrowse through our medical image collection to see illustrations of human anatomy and physiology See Images
What are the different types of hormone therapy for prostate cancer?
There are three types of hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
- Injections or implants to stop patients from producing testosterone
- Tablets to block the effects of testosterone
- Surgery, called an orchiectomy, to remove the testicles or part of the testicles that produces testosterone
The most common hormone therapies used to treat prostate cancer include:
- Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists: These are given as regular injections. Depending on the drug, injections are given every month or every 3, 4, or 6 months.
- Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) antagonists: These are administered through injections.
- Anti-androgens: These are administered through injections and implants.
- Estrogens: These are no longer a viable option because of their cardiovascular side effects.
Latest Cancer News
- Breast Cancer Patients Who Can Skip Post-Op Chemo
- Evidence That Pandemic Delayed Cancer Diagnosis
- Do Immune-Based Cancer Drugs Work Better in Men?
- HPV Vaccine Is Reducing Cervical Cancers in Teens
- Old Spice, Secret Products Recalled Due to Benzene
- Want More News? Sign Up for MedicineNet Newsletters!
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
When Treatment Stops Working: Blame Resistance: https://www.pcf.org/c/when-treatment-stops-working-blame-resistance/
Top When Hormone Therapy Fails for Prostate Cancer Related Articles
Early-Stage Prostate Cancer Treatment
If prostate cancer is detected early and appears to be slow-growing, invasive procedures, chemotherapy, radiation and other approaches can sometimes do more harm than good. Many prostate cancer treatments come with side effects, like incontinence or impotence, so it’s in the patient’s interest to put off invasive treatments as long as is medically safe. Active surveillance is where doctors "watch and wait" for changes that could prompt medical intervention.
BPH SlideshowBenign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition cause by an enlarged prostate. Get more information on how an enlarged prostate is diagnosed and available treatment for enlarged prostate glands.
BPH QuizTake the Enlarge Prostate Quiz and challenge your knowledge of prostate problems. Learn causes, symptoms, treatments, and diagnosis as well as little-known facts about the prostate, and what happens to men when the prostate is enlarged.
Hormone TherapyEstrogen therapy, estrogen/progestin therapy, and hormone therapy are terms that refer to the administration of estrogen or estrogen/progestin for the purpose of suppressing hot flashes. Side effects of hormone therapy include headaches, nausea, breast pain, blood clots, breast cancer, heart disease, abnormal vaginal bleeding, stroke, and uterine cancer.
How Is Prostate Cancer Diagnosed?
Prostate cancer is largely a disease of men over 40, so it’s around this age doctors recommend the first prostate screening. The first exam is a blood test to determine if there are abnormal prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels in your blood – PSA is produced by the prostate. If the PSA is high, your doctor will perform a digital rectal exam, during which the doctor feels your prostate from inside your rectum with a gloved finger. Other diagnostic tests include an endoscopic biopsy of tumor tissue for analysis in a lab.
How Painful Is a Prostate Biopsy?A prostate biopsy is a simple surgical procedure that takes just 10 minutes. It involves inserting the biopsy needle through the wall of your rectum to reach your prostate to cut and remove around 10-12 small samples of tissue from the prostate. The idea of the procedure makes a prostate biopsy appear as an extremely painful procedure.
Prostate CancerProstate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. Risk factors include age, family history, ethnicity, and diet. Prostate cancer is diagnosed by digital rectal exam, prostate specific antigen (PSA) test, and prostate biopsy. Symptoms may include frequent need to urinate, incontinence, pain, blood in the urine, fatigue, and more. Prognosis and treatment depend on cancer staging. Watchful waiting, surgery, radiation, cryotherapy, and other management strategies are available. Research and clinical trials strive to find new and better treatments for prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer QuizIs prostate cancer the most common cancer in men? Take this quiz to find out and learn the causes, symptoms and treatments of this disease.
Prostate Cancer SlidesProstate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Learn the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer, along with causes and treatments. Know the stages, survival rates and lower your risk of prostate cancer.
Prostate Cancer (Prostatic Cancer) Symptoms and Causes
Difficulty with urination – frequency, weak stream, trouble getting started, etc. – is usually the first sign of prostate cancer. But these and other early symptoms of prostatic cancer can also come from benign prostate conditions, so diagnostic testing is important, including PSA tests and digital rectal exam.
Prostate Cancer Treatment: Radical Prostatectomy Surgery
Radical prostatectomy, or surgical removal of the entire prostate gland, isn’t typically the first choice in prostate cancer treatment. Sometimes a radical approach is necessary to keep the cancer from metastasizing, however. Some cases are too severe or diagnosed too late for drugs or radiation to have much effect. In these cases, treatment teams may opt for a radical prostatectomy, despite potential side effects like impotence and incontinence.
Prostate Cancer ScreeningProstate cancer screening may be able to detect cancer before a person has developed any symptoms. Prostate cancer is the most common nonskin cancer among American men. Tests commonly used to screen for prostate cancer include a digital rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA test).
Illustrations of ProstateSide View of the Prostate. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis. See a picture of the Prostate and learn more about the health topic.
PSA Test (Prostate Specific Antigen)Prostate specific antigen (PSA) is a protein that is found in the semen. PSA levels are used to detect prostate cancer and monitor the progression of the disease. A condition called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) can also cause elevated PSA levels.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From a Prostate Biopsy?A patient may take about four to six weeks or even more to recover after a prostate biopsy. The recovery process after biopsy usually depends on the patient's health and age. Doctors may recommend only light activities for 24-48 hours after a prostate biopsy.