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What to Know About Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Hormone treatment is one way to treat prostate cancer. It does not cure it.

Male hormones are called androgens. The main androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. Prostate cancer cells usually need male hormones to grow. The goal of hormone treatment is to lower the amount of hormones that your body produces or to stop the cancer cells from using them, which may slow or stop the growth of the cancer for some time. 

Your doctor may suggest hormone treatment if one of the cases below is true for you:

  • You have early-stage prostate cancer and you can't have surgery or radiation. And you don't want to do watchful waiting. (Although many doctors do not advise hormone therapy in this setting because it has not been proven to be helpful.) 

  • You're planning to have surgery or radiation treatment. Having hormone treatment before other treatments can sometimes help shrink the tumor. A smaller tumor is easier to treat.

  • You have prostate cancer that is locally advanced--it has grown outside of the prostate and is therefore less likely to be cured with local treatments, such as surgery or radiation. Combining radiation and hormone therapy in these cases has been shown to be better than local treatment alone.

  • You have a tumor that has spread beyond your prostate to distant parts of your body.

  • You've had a rise in your PSA level after you've had surgery or radiation, and the doctor isn't sure where the cancer has recurred or it has recurred in a distant part of the body. Hormone treatment can help slow the growth of the cancer if it is coming back.

Most prostate cancers are sensitive to hormones. However, some patients may not respond to the hormone therapy, or their cancer stops responding to the hormone therapy and becomes resistant over time. Switching the type of hormone therapy can often provide a benefit for a time, but eventually other types of treatment may need to be tried.  


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