- Hormone therapy and chemotherapy are the two types of treatments for prostate cancer.
- Hormone therapy drugs stop your body’s production of testosterone. This is effective because testosterone can speed the growth of cancerous tissue.
- Cancer cells divide quickly. Chemotherapy works by targeting and attacking cells that divide quickly.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. The prostate gland is located under the bladder. It’s responsible for making some of the fluid that makes up semen. Prostate cancer can grow slowly, so your doctor may not recommend treatment right away.
Your treatment plan will be developed based on several factors. These include how advanced your cancer is, your overall health, and the side effects of each treatment.
Hormone therapy drugs and chemotherapy drugs are two types of drugs that can be used to treat prostate cancer.
Hormone Therapy Drugs
The goal of hormone therapy is to reduce your levels of androgens, or male hormones, such as testosterone. These hormones cause prostate tissue to grow and can speed the growth of cancerous tissue.
Less testosterone in the body can slow the growth and spread of cancer. There are several classes of drugs used in hormone therapy. They may be used individually or in a combination.
Luteinizing Hormone-releasing Hormone Agonists
Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists reduce testosterone production in the body. One drawback to LHRH agonists is that they can cause a “flare,” which is a brief increase in testosterone levels when first taken. Examples include:
Luteinizing Hormone-Releasing Hormone Antagonists
LHRH antagonists also reduce testosterone production in the body without any initial increase, or flare, in testosterone. The only LHRH antagonist currently available is degarelix (Firmagon).
The results of agonist and antagonist treatments are the same. Both treatments reduce testosterone production. LHRH agonists have been around longer and have been extensively studied. LHRH antagonists are fairly new medicines that are useful but have been used on fewer people.
Anti-androgens prevent the body from using androgen hormones. They’re often used in combination with LHRH agonists to prevent flares. This is because some testosterone is made outside of the testicles and isn’t affected by LHRH agonists. Anti-androgen drugs include:
Other Androgen Blockers
There are other androgen blockers that prevent your body from making testosterone and other androgens in the adrenal glands in addition to the testicles. There are two of these used in prostate cancer treatment. They’re called aminoglutethimide (Cytadren) and ketoconazole (Nizoral)
Doctors will often prescribe chemotherapy treatment if cancer has spread outside of the prostate or if hormone therapy hasn’t been effective. It works by targeting and attacking cells that divide quickly, such as cancer cells. However, it also attacks:
- the lining of the mouth, which can cause mouth sores
- the hair follicles, which can cause hair loss
- the bone marrow, which is where blood cells are made
- the lining of the intestines, which can cause diarrhea
Chemotherapy can either be given intravenously or through a pill.
There are several different drugs used in chemotherapy treatments for various kinds of cancer. Chemotherapy drugs are often given alongside a steroid such as prednisone to help reduce side effects. The following drugs are commonly used for chemotherapy to treat prostate cancer:
- carboplatin (Paraplatin)
- docetaxel (Taxotere)
- doxorubicin (Adriamycin)
- estramustine (Emcyt)
- etoposide (VP-16)
- mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
- paclitaxel (Taxol)
- vinblastine (Velban)
- vinorelbine (Navelbine)
Work with your doctor to figure out what treatment plan is right for you. Make sure that you understand the potential side effects of every medication you’re prescribed. You should always contact your doctor if you’re concerned about any new symptoms you’ve developed after you start a medication.