Doctors can treat, but not cure, advanced prostate cancer. The goal is to slow down the cancer's spread and help you feel better. Most men with it live a high quality of life for many years.
There are different kinds of treatments, including hormone therapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and chemotherapy. Ask your doctor about the risks, benefits, and side effects of each one, and what is best for you.
Hormone Therapy for Advanced Prostate Cancer
The goal is to cut prostate cancer's hormonal fuel supply, slowing down its growth.
The male sex hormones (called androgens), and especially testosterone, can help prostate cancer cells grow inside and outside of the prostate gland. Hormone therapy shuts down this process. It will:
- Dramatically lower your testosterone levels
- Prevent prostate cancer cells from using any low levels of androgens
Most doctors think it makes sense to start this type of treatment as soon as prostate cancer becomes advanced. Your doctor may call it "androgen deprivation therapy."
There are several different hormone therapy drugs. Your doctor may give you one or more of them, including:
GnRH agents. These drugs can work in different ways, but ultimately, they block or stop your body from making luteinizing hormone (LH), which it needs to make testosterone. Drugs of this type include:
- Buserelin (Suprefact)
- Degarelix (Firmagon)
- Goserelin (Zoladex)
- Histrelin (Vantas)
- Leuprolide (Eligard, Lupron Depot)
- Triptorelin (Trelstar)
You'll get these drugs by injection every month, 3 months, or 6 months. Doctors implant others under your skin.
Sometimes, these drugs can cause your body to temporarily make a lot of testosterone before the levels drop. To offset any side effects from the hormonal surge, your doctor may also recommend taking another kind of drug, called "anti-androgens."
Anti-androgens. These drugs completely block prostate cancer cells' ability to use any androgens.
Three common types of anti-androgen drugs are:
- Bicalutamide (Casodex)
- Flutamide (Eulexin)
- Nilutamide (Nilandron)
You may take these before you start GnRH agents to avoid a hormone flare or if other hormone therapy stops working.
How you take them: Some hormone therapy drugs are pills. Others are injections or pellets that doctors implant under your skin. Your doctor will set your drug schedule based on your particular needs and how your cancer responds.