Hormone Therapy for Cancer


Most of us have heard of hormones like testosterone and estrogen. We need hormones for growth, development, metabolism and reproduction. But did you know some forms of cancers use hormones to grow in your body? If you have cancer that is hormone-sensitive or hormone-dependent, you may need a type of treatment called hormone therapy.

What is Hormone Therapy?

Hormone therapy refers to a group of drugs and other treatments. They include:

  • Drugs that block your body’s ability to make hormones.
  • Drugs that lower hormone levels.
  • Drugs that prevent hormones from attaching to cancer cells.
  • Surgery to remove the gland or organ that makes hormones.

You may use one drug or a combination of drugs to counter the effect that the hormones have on your cancer. Hormone therapy is usually combined with other cancer treatments. These include radiation therapychemotherapy or cancer surgery.

The type of hormone therapy you’ll need depends on several factors. These include the kind of cancer you have, your age, and (for women) whether you’ve completed menopause. 

Benefits of Hormone Therapy

Each type of hormone therapy works differently and offers different benefits. These include:

  • Preventing cancer from coming back.
  • Slowing or stopping the growth of cancer that has spread.
  • Shrinking a tumor before surgery.

What to Expect With Hormone Therapy Treatment

Your Mercy care team will make sure you understand what to expect before, during and after hormone therapy. For example:

  • You may need to take hormone therapy for several years.
  • Hormone therapy interferes with your body’s normal hormone levels. This means you may have side effects. Women commonly experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood changes or night sweats. Men often report erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, hot flashes or breast tenderness.
  • Like all medications, hormone therapy drugs have risks. Certain drugs increase your risk of problems like blood clots and osteoporosis.

We realize starting cancer treatments can feel both exciting and intimidating. We’ll take the time to answer your questions and address your concerns before you begin hormone therapy.

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