Hormones are chemicals that travel in the blood and control how some cells and organs act and grow. Natural hormones are produced by glands or organs in the body. Artificial or synthetic hormones can be made in a lab. Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment that slows or stops the growth of cancer that uses hormones to grow. Hormone therapy is also called hormonal therapy, hormone treatment, or endocrine therapy. Hormone therapy can lessen the chance that cancer will return or stop or slow its growth and may be used to reduce or prevent symptoms in men with prostate cancer who are not able to have surgery or radiation therapy.
Hormone therapy falls into two broad groups, those that block the body’s ability to produce hormones and those that interfere with how hormones behave in the body. Preparation for hormonal therapy depends on the type of treatment chosen.
Drugs are commonly used to stop hormone production depending on the type of cancer and your response to treatment. Combinations of hormonal therapy drugs may be used in some situations. Hormonal drug therapy is given by mouth or injection.
When used with other treatments, hormone therapy can make a tumor smaller before surgery or radiation therapy (neo-adjuvant therapy), Lower the risk that cancer will come back after the main treatment (adjuvant therapy) and destroy cancer cells that have returned or spread to other parts of your body.
The effectiveness of hormone therapy depends on:
- The types of hormone therapy you receive
- How long and how often you receive hormone therapy
- The part of the country where you live
Hormone therapy may include oral pills, injections that are given by a shot in a muscle in your arm, thigh, or hip, or right under the skin in the fatty part of your arm, leg, or belly or surgery for removal of organs that produce hormones. Hormone therapy affects people in different ways. The response to the treatment depends on the type of cancer you have, how advanced it is, the type of hormone therapy you are getting, and the dose.
Follow-up appointments are usually scheduled to see how the cancer is responding to hormonal therapy, to see how you are tolerating hormonal drug therapy and to discuss ways of lessening and treating side effects.