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Treating Prostate Cancer with Hormone Therapy

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When is hormone treatment used to treat prostate cancer?

Treating prostate cancer with hormone therapy is a very common. In most circumstances it is used to slow the progression of advanced prostate cancer and reduce the discomfort of the prostate cancer symptoms for a patient. Hormonal therapy is rarely used to treat localised, or locally advanced prostate cancer, where surgery or radiotherapy can offer a possible cure. Hormone therapy is often used with radiotherapy to increase the effectiveness of the radiotherapy at destroying the cancer cells.

How do hormonal treatments help treat prostate cancer?

Hormonal manipulation works by altering the production of, or effect of, testosterone on prostate cancer cells. Altering testosterone levels controls the growth of cells in the prostate, both cancerous and normal, as cancer cells need testosterone to grow1.

Unlike surgery and radiotherapy, hormone treatment does not cure prostate cancer. Hormone treatment can manage the progression of prostate cancer for a period of time before additional methods of treating the cancer will be necessary. On average, hormone therapy is effective at managing prostate cancer for three years. After this time, the prostate cancer cells become resistant to the effects of hormonal manipulation.

Hormone therapy can be delivered in a tablet form, called anti-androgen treatment, or by an injection given either monthly or once every three months, called luteinising hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists. In some circumstances, both tablets and injections are given together1.

Side effects of hormone treatment for prostate cancer?

The downside to hormonal therapy is the number of side effects associated with it; this is due to the changes in testosterone levels in the body1. These include:

- Breast swelling or tenderness
- Decreased libido
- Impotence
- Weight gain
- Tiredness1
- Hot flushes1
- Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

Mr Christopher Eden
Consultant Urologist

1. NHS Choices – Prostate cancer treatment. Date last updated: 14.02.2011. Website:


10516 Revised November 2012

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