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Androgens are male hormones. Androgens (such as testosterone) are made in the testicles. Prostate cancer cells need androgens to grow. Reducing the amount of androgens in the body can help treat prostate cancer. This therapy does not cure the cancer but it can help control it. It may be used alone. Or it may be used with surgery or radiation therapy to help make these treatments more effective. Read below to learn more about this treatment.
Lowering the amount of androgens in the body can be done with:
LHRH or GnRH agonists. These are medications that stop the testicles from making androgens. These are injected into a muscle or just under the skin. This is done every few weeks or months for 1 to 2 years. Or they may be given with a small device put in the skin on the inside of the arm. This implant gives a steady dose of medication over time. LHRH and GnRH agonists are often used with anti-androgens (see below).
Anti-androgens. These are medications that stop cancer cells from using androgens as a way to grow. These come in pill form and are taken by mouth. They are often taken along with LHRH or GnRH agonists.
Other medications. These may include corticosteroids, estrogen, or anti-fungal medications. These can also help lower the levels of androgens in the body. They are used less often than the medications listed above.
Orchiectomy. This is surgery to remove the testicles. This stops the body from making most androgens. Prosthetic (artificial) testicles can be placed afterward to restore the look of real testicles.
Hot flashes (sudden increase in body heat)
Less interest in sex
Inability to get or keep an erection
Mood changes such as depression, irritability, or anxiety
Loss of muscle
Breast-area tenderness or growth
Some of the side effects of treatment are temporary. Others are more long-lasting. This depends on the type of medication used, and how it affects your body. Most side effects of orchiectomy are permanent. Your doctor can tell you more. To help cope with side effects, try the tips below.
Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. He or she may prescribe medications that can help you feel better and reduce problems.
Avoid hot tubs, saunas, and hot showers.
Avoid spicy food, alcohol, and caffeine.
Exercise and do other physical activity.
Eat a healthy diet.
Keep mentally active.
Work with your partner to manage sexual changes.
Try counseling or support groups.
During the course of your treatment, you’ll have routine visits with your doctor. You may also have tests. These allow your doctor to check your health and response to the treatment. After treatment ends, you and your doctor will discuss your treatment results. You’ll also discuss whether you need additional cancer treatments.
Damage to healthy tissue and organs
Failure to slow the growth of cancer cells
Trouble concentrating or memory problems
Shrinking of penis or testicles
Anemia (not enough red blood cells)
Increased blood sugar levels
Problems with the heart or liver
For more information about cancer and its treatment, visit the websites listed below:
American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov