Hormone therapy involves stopping your body from producing the male sex hormone testosterone which stimulates the growth of prostate cancer cells. Another type of this therapy can block testosterone from getting into the cancer cells. Sometimes a combination of two drugs is used to achieve both effects. Hormone therapy is occasionally used to stop the growth of the cancer when needed curative therapy cannot be given in a timely manner, sometimes it is used as adjunctive therapy to improve the cure rate of Surgery and External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) and often, it is used as palliative therapy to stop the progression of widespread, incurable cancer. It is a very effective and useful treatment for prostate cancer but does have some side effects. Side effects of hormone therapy can include:
- Breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
- Reduced sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain
- Reduction in muscle and bone mass
Recent reports have shown that men who undergo hormone therapy for prostate cancer may have a higher risk of having a heart attack in the first year or two after starting hormone therapy. So you doctor should carefully monitor your heart condition and aggressively treat any other conditions that may predispose you to a heart attack, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or smoking.
Surgery to remove the testicles, which produces most of the testosterone is as effective as other forms of hormonal therapy. Many men are not comfortable with the idea of losing their testicles, so they opt for shots or medication to control the testosterone. However, removing the testicles has the advantage of not having to have an injection every 3 to 6 months and can be less expensive. The surgery to remove the testicles is done on an outpatient basis.