Hormone Therapy

Hormone Therapy San Diego uses medicines to block hormones in the body to help prevent cancer from growing. It may be used in addition to other types of treatment.

It’s typically used to treat breast cancers that are sensitive to estrogen or progesterone. Your health care team will test your cancer for these receptors before giving you hormone therapy.

The Benefits of Hormone Therapy - Chapel Hill Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses medicines to block or lower the amount of hormones in the body. It can help reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence or treat metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). Hormone therapy may be used alone or with other types of cancer treatment, such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Hormones are natural chemicals that control many body functions, including growth and development, sexual function, reproduction, and mood. They are made by glands in the body, such as the thyroid and parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, and testicles. Hormones can also affect how the body turns food into energy. Cancers that depend on hormones to grow and spread are called hormone sensitive. Hormone therapy can decrease the chances of a cancer recurrence after surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy for hormone-sensitive cancers, or it can be used to treat metastatic breast or prostate cancer.

Different types of hormone therapy include systemic estrogen, progestin/estrogen combination therapy, and tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a pill that is often taken daily to help prevent a cancer recurrence after early-stage breast cancer. It is usually given for 5 to 10 years after the last treatment for a person with breast cancer. It is also often given to help reduce the chance of a cancer recurrence in women who have not gone through menopause and to treat advanced cancer in postmenopausal women.

Systemic estrogen is a medicine that comes in a pill, skin patch, ring, gel, or cream form. It can be used to help ease symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats. It can also decrease a woman’s risk for osteoporosis, which is a disease that causes the bones to break down and get weaker.

A person receiving hormone therapy will need to have regular checkups, which may include an exam of the neck, chest, and abdomen, a blood test to measure PSA levels, and mammograms. It is important for a patient to report any side effects from their hormone therapy to their health care team. Depending on the type of hormone therapy, a doctor will evaluate whether the benefits outweigh the risks for each individual patient.

How is hormone therapy used?

Hormone therapy can reduce the risk of cancer coming back after surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. It also can help ease cancer symptoms, such as hot flashes or vaginal dryness. Hormone therapy can be used alone or in combination with other types of cancer treatment. It can lower the chance of breast, uterine and prostate cancers growing or spreading in people who have hormone receptor positive tumors.

The type of hormone therapy you receive depends on the kind of cancer you have and your age, medical history, family history and other factors. Some treatments block the body’s ability to make certain hormones, while others interfere with how hormones act in the body. The length of time you are treated with hormone therapy depends on the type of cancer and how well it responds to your treatment plan.

For women with early menopause or estrogen deficiency (primary ovarian insufficiency), hormone therapy can decrease the risk of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis. It can also reduce the risk of a recurrence of breast cancer. For some people, hormone therapy is part of a comprehensive cancer care program that includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

Many of the same side effects that happen with any type of drug can occur with hormone therapy. Your doctor will talk with you about the possible side effects before starting your treatment and explain how they can be prevented or managed.

Hormone therapy may cause changes to your mood. You may feel more emotional or have mood swings, such as crying one day and feeling angry the next. These feelings may be due to the hormone therapy itself or they may be a reaction to the impact of a cancer diagnosis on your life.

Some hormone therapies, such as tamoxifen, can cause low sex drive or problems reaching or keeping an orgasm. This can be a problem for some couples who are having sex. It is important to talk with your partner and doctor about this before beginning treatment.

What are the possible side effects of hormone therapy?

Hormone therapy uses medicines to block the effects of hormones in the body or stop cancer cells from using hormones. It can be used before surgery to shrink a tumor or after chemotherapy and radiation therapy to reduce the risk that cancer will return or spread to other parts of the body, called recurrent or metastatic cancer. Hormone therapy may also be used with other cancer treatments, such as targeted therapy. Targeted therapy medicines use specific chemicals to kill cancer cells.

People who have hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast or prostate cancer, may benefit from hormone therapy. The type of hormones and the length of time people receive hormone therapy depends on the type of cancer, its stage and how much it has spread.

Women who have a hysterectomy can take estrogen and/or progestin to treat hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms. However, long-term use of these medicines can increase a woman’s risk for heart disease and can cause changes in a woman’s vaginal lining and uterus. Long-term use can also cause infertility, urinary incontinence and changes in orgasm (including a decreased frequency or intensity).

Men who have testicular cancer may have hormone therapy with drugs that prevent their bodies from making testosterone. This treatment can relieve hot flashes and other symptoms and help maintain bone strength. Men who have this type of cancer may also need to take other medicines to prevent bone loss, such as calcitonin and alendronate.

The side effects of hormone therapy can be managed with different medicines and lifestyle changes, such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, managing stress and avoiding alcohol. Most of these side effects go away or get better over time.

Talk to your cancer doctor, who is called an oncologist, about hormone therapy and the possible side effects. Your oncologist can recommend ways to control or avoid the side effects of hormone therapy. You should be sure to keep all follow-up appointments and routine screenings during hormone therapy, including mammograms and pelvic exams.

What are the long-term side effects of hormone therapy?

Depending on what kind of hormone therapy you have, how long you take it for and your overall health, there could be side effects that last for a short time or longer. These can include hot flushes, sweating and tiredness. It can also affect fertility and sexuality and cause bones to weaken and break more easily (osteoporosis). Hormone therapy can also cause a decrease in the appetite and changes in bowel habits. Your doctor or nurse will keep an eye on any side effects you have and can help you manage them.

A decrease in libido can be a side effect of some hormone treatments, especially when combined with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). If you are concerned about this, there are medicines you can take to improve your sex drive. You can also discuss the issue with your partner, GP or specialist nurse.

Some men find that they have less energy and a lack of interest in things like work or hobbies while on hormone treatment. If you have trouble coping with these changes, talking with your family, friends or a counsellor can help.

Your hormone therapy can increase your risk of blood clots, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Having a healthy diet, taking regular exercise and keeping in close contact with your GP can help prevent these side effects.

You may have muscle or joint pain while on hormone therapy. Taking a medicine to ease this such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help. You might also have a lower level of testosterone and a change in your appearance (such as facial hair or less body fat). Some men find this can be distressing, but there are ways to cope.

If your PSA level falls and stays low, it usually means that the cancer has been controlled by your hormone therapy. However, if your PSA levels rise again, it may be a sign that the cancer has come back and you might need further treatment. Your doctor will monitor your PSA regularly and will talk to you about further treatment options. A study has shown that adding the chemotherapy drug docetaxel to ADT can improve the chance of a good outcome for men with advanced prostate cancer. The combination is more effective than ADT alone.