How Does Prostate Cancer Hormone Therapy Work?

What is prostate cancer hormone therapy and how does it work?

Prostate Cancer Hormone TherapyProstate cancer hormone therapy is used quite often when treating prostate cancer patients. This therapy does not involve the patient actually receiving hormones. Rather, doctors try to suppress the hormone testosterone. Dr. Richard Bevan-Thomas tells us that prostate cancer cells actually use testosterone for fuel in its early stages.

For hormone therapy, patients are routinely given a shot which tells their brain to stop signaling the testicles to make testosterone. These shots may be administered from one to six months. This therapy works well but does have side effects. For more, watch the video below:

Video Transcripts

Richard Bevan-Thomas, MD: Hormone therapy is a therapy which we use for prostate cancer quite often, but it is not actually giving a patient hormones. We also refer to it as what is called androgen deprivation therapy because what we do is we want to starve the prostate cancer cells of testosterone. We know that prostate cancer certainly in the early stages actually uses testosterone for fuel.

Now, for patients that are undergoing radiation therapy or for patients that we see that have had a recurrence of cancer or for patients that we want to shrink the prostate down, we will start them on androgen deprivation therapy, also known as ADT, how does that work. Well, we routinely give the patient a shot and that shot actually tells the brain to stop telling the testicles to make testosterone and that shot can last as low as one month, it can actually increase to three months or six months and sometimes, we can actually even put a pellet in the arm that lasts for about a year but the goal on this is to actually make sure that those testicles actually don’t produce testosterone. So, what happens is those cancer cells that were using testosterone start to shrink and when they start to shrink, it also gives the advantage of whatever treatment that we may end up using, it actually gives them a boost in terms of making them actually work better and radiation therapy is a great example of this.

The challenge with androgen deprivation therapy is that it has side effects and it puts men into what is called male menopause. As a result, they start having or at least they are at high risk of developing hot flashes, they can be significantly tired because testosterone is not only just used for fuel for prostate cancer but also makes a man feel more energetic and also lively. It decreases the man’s sex drive significantly and also decreases his ability to get erections even if he is interested and more importantly, it can affect the blood sugar levels and it can also affect the bones and men can actually develop osteoporosis which is where the bones start to degrade.

So when we put a man on hormone therapy, we want to first of all look at how long we are going to put that patient on androgen deprivation therapy and then in addition to that, we want to minimize the chance that he has any further bone loss and also there is medication that we can give a man on androgen deprivation therapy that can minimize his chance of actually having hot flashes. So, all of those things have risks. Androgen deprivation therapy is a way which we use routinely along with other therapies to minimize the growth of that prostate cancer.

Dr. Richard Bevan-Thomas
Dr. Bevan-Thomas is the Medical Director for Prostate Cancer Live. A graduate of Duke University, Rich received both a master’s degree in anatomy and his medical degree from St. Louis University School of Medicine. He completed residency training in urologic surgery at the University of Texas Houston Health Science Center and the renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center, also in Houston. In 2002, he received two top honors in his field; the Pfizer Scholar in Urology and the Gerald G. Murphy Scholar in Urology. Dr. Bevan-Thomas will remain on the leading edge of robotic surgery and cryosurgery at USMD Prostate Cancer Center and will continue offering patients the latest clinical trials in prostate cancer treatment. He continues his teaching and physician proctoring interests as well as instructing in robotic surgery.

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