Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy involves the use of either:

  • Hormones themselves, or
  • Medicines that interfere with the action and / or production of hormones

Hormones are substances made in glands in the body (eg: ovaries, testes, thyroid) that travel in the blood to cause other parts of the body to alter their function. Hormones in the body may also cause effects on cancer cells, especially cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and cancer of the uterus. This is because these organs are constantly under the influence of hormones in order to control their normal functioning.

Hormone therapy is most commonly given in the form of tablets, which are taken orally daily for prolonged periods of time (months to years), as the effects of these medicines tend to be slower than those of chemotherapy. Hormonal medicines may occasionally be given in the form of an injection repeated from time to time, also continuing for prolonged periods of time.

The side effects of hormone therapy are usually considerably milder than those of chemotherapy, and may include:

  • hot flushes,
  • fluid retention,
  • vaginal bleeding.

Your doctor will explain any possible adverse effects that may be expected when using a particular hormone treatment.

Your doctor will explain to you exactly what can be expected from each different treatment, and also how to prevent or alleviate many of these side effects.