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Cancer Hormone Therapy

There are many different types of cancer that people suffer from, and there are also many different treatments that can be used, depending on the patient, their particular type of cancer, and their doctor’s specific instructions. Some types of cancer treatment are meant to be used in conjunction with other types of treatment, and hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that is primarily designed to be used as an adjuvant treatment.  

Hormone therapy is often used as an adjuvant after surgery to decrease the risk of the cancer returning. Even though this is its most common usage, hormone therapy can also be used as a neoadjuvant treatment for cancer that has recurred following a cancer treatment, or for cancer that has spread. Hormone therapy can involve taking pills, receiving monthly shots just below the skin, or receiving surgery to remove the testicles (orchiectomy). 

Preparation for Hormone Therapy: Preparation needs will differ depending on the type of hormone therapy that is taking place. Different types of hormone therapy will be recommended or prescribed by a doctor depending on the type of cancer and various other determinations. Some types of hormone therapy involve very little preparation, as in the case of pills and shots. Other types of hormone therapy may require more preparation, as in the case of orchiectomy. You should carefully follow your doctor’s instructions when preparing for any type of hormone therapy.  

Procedure: The procedures for hormonal therapy differ greatly, depending on the type of cancer that is being treated, and how it is being treated. Many hormone pills that are prescribed as part of hormonal therapy are meant to be taken once per day, but your doctor’s instructions may be different and should be carefully followed. Sometimes cancer cells will not respond to hormone therapy pills, and if this happens your doctor may suggest other types of hormone therapy treatments, including subcutaneous shots, or possibly even castration (orchiectomy). Orchiectomy is performed on an outpatient basis and involves the surgical removal of the testicles, where the majority of androgens are made. Your doctor will be able to give you specific information regarding the type of procedure you will be going through as part of your hormone treatment.  

Types of Hormone Therapy: Hormonal therapy techniques differ in their approach, but they all seek to modify the hormones in some way or another. One type of hormone therapy technique is surgical testicle removal, which is a helpful cancer treatment because it permanently removes the source of most androgens. Therapy with luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogs (LHRH)  is also used to decrease testosterone levels and does not require castration, although it will gradually reduce the size of the testicles until they may no longer be detectible.

Even though LHRH analogs require more frequent doctor visits and cost more money, most men prefer this hormone therapy method to orchiectomy. Another type of hormone therapy involves the use of anti-androgens which block the ability of the body to use different types of androgens. If anti-androgens are used in conjunction with LHRH analogs, the treatment is called combined androgen blockade (CAB). In addition to these hormone therapy treatments, there are some other types of drugs which are designed to suppress androgens and are effective hormone therapy treatments for some cancer types.  

Recovery Time: Some types of hormonal therapy don’t have any type of recovery time, such as pills. For more invasive types of hormone therapy, minimal recovery time may be required, as in the case of orchiectomy. Because orchiectomy is an outpatient procedure, recovery time is normally not extensive, but your doctor and your surgeon will be able to give you more information about what to expect before and after surgery.  

Hormone Therapy Side Effects: Side effects and risks of hormonal therapy include hot flashes, impotence, breast tenderness, fatigue, reduced or absent libido, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, depression, decreased mental acuity, osteoporosis, and increased cholesterol. The risk of hypertension, heart attacks, and diabetes are higher in males who go through hormone therapy. Talk to your doctor to find out if hormone therapy is a viable option for you and carefully consider whether or not the benefits are worth the risks.