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Offered at Dignity Health, hormone therapy is a common treatment for cancer (such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer) that blocks the effects of hormones that stimulate growth of certain cancers. This deprives cancer cells of the “fuel” they need to grow.
Hormone therapy often involves taking medicines. Our oncologists may also recommend removing part or the entire organ that is making the hormone.
Reasons for Prescribing Cancer Hormone Therapy
Your oncologist may use hormone therapy to treat:
- Breast cancer: Hormone therapy for breast cancers that are estrogen receptor positive (ER+) or progesterone receptor positive (PR+) either lowers the amount of hormones in the body or stops the hormones from growing.
- Prostate cancer: Male hormones called androgens are necessary for prostate cancer to grow. Hormone therapy can reduce androgen production in the testicles, block the effect of androgen in the body, or block androgen production throughout the body.
- Thyroid cancer: Taking higher than normal doses of thyroid hormone can keep TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels very low, which decreases the risk of thyroid cancer returning. Removing part or all of the thyroid gland is another form of hormone therapy.
Risks & Complications
Side effects are likely with hormone therapy because it changes the natural balance of your body’s hormones:
- Breast cancer: The main side effect of blocking estrogen and progesterone are menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Other risks depend on the specific medication.
- Prostate cancer: Men can develop menopausal-type symptoms, such as hot flashes, when taking medicines that block androgen hormones. Side effects may also include erectile dysfunction, weight gain, loss of muscle mass or strength, and loss of sex drive (libido).
- Thyroid cancer: Taking higher than normal doses of thyroid hormone can cause side effects, including heart problems and weakened bones. Although, taking high doses for a short amount of time does not seem to cause problems.
What to Expect with Hormone Therapy at Dignity Health
Hormone therapy can control your symptoms for a long time, though some of the medicines recommended must be taken for years in order to be most effective. Hormone therapy with surgery is generally permanent.
Your doctor and nurse navigator will thoroughly discuss with you the effects of hormone therapy, including risks and complications, so you can know how to prepare. Your well-being is our top priority. Reach out to our professionals today to learn more.