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Hormone Therapy

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy is a type of cancer therapy used to reach cancer cells anywhere in the body, regardless of where the cancer was found. Sometimes hormone therapy may also be referred to as:

  • Hormonal Therapy
  • Hormone Treatment
  • Endocrine Therapy

Hormones are special chemical messengers made by endocrine glands that occur naturally in the body. One of the many jobs they have is controlling the growth and activity of certain hormone-sensitive tissues and cells, such as breast and prostate tissue. Sometimes, cancer cells found in the hormone-sensitive tissues become hormone-dependent, meaning they rely on hormones to grow or develop. 

In cases such as these, blocking the action of hormones or altering the way they work could slow or stop the cancer from growing. Hormone therapy can be administered through:

  • Oral drugs
  • Injection given in the arm, leg, hip, or under the skin of the abdomen
  • Surgery, removing the organs that secrete hormones, such as ovaries or testicles

Similar to chemotherapy, hormone therapy is considered a systemic treatment designed to have a widespread effect on the cancer cells in the body. The treatment period for hormone therapy is determined on a case-by-case basis but often lasts several years.

How is Hormone Therapy Used for Cancer Treatments?

Hormone therapy is often used:

  1. After surgery to help reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence. 
  2. As a cancer treatment to lessen the chance the cancer will return or stop/slow its growth.
  3. To ease cancer symptoms in men with prostate cancer who are not able to have surgery or radiation therapy. 
  4. Before surgery, your doctor may decide your treatment plan includes hormone therapy as an alternative to chemotherapy. 

Side Effects of Hormone Therapy 

Hormone treatments block or interfere with your body’s natural hormone production, which may result in unwanted side effects. Side effects of hormone therapy will also differ depending on if you are male or female.

Some common side effects for men who receive hormone therapy for prostate cancer include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Loss of interest in or ability to have sex
  • Bone thinning
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Enlarged and tender breasts
  • Fatigue
  • Hair thinning and mild weight gain are possible

Read more information about hormone therapy for prostate cancer patients.

Some common side effects for women who receive hormone therapy for breast cancer include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Changes in your menstrual cycle (if you have not yet reached menopause)
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Hair thinning and mild weight gain are possible

Read more information about hormone therapy for breast cancer patients.

Hormone Therapy for Cancer Treatment Available at Virginia Oncology Associates

The oncologists at Virginia Oncology Associates (VOA) offer patients the latest cancer treatment options, including hormone therapy. Our cancer team includes a caring and supportive oncology nursing team who is here to help our patients during every step of your cancer journey. VOA cancer centers are located in Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Norfolk, Newport News, Suffolk (Harbour View/Obici), Williamsburg, Virginia, and Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Make an appointment to consult with one of our oncologists if hormone therapy is recommended as part of your cancer treatment plan.