Hormonal therapies can be administered in the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer and gynecological cancers. Our Medical Oncologist MD. Prof. Serdar Turhal, from Anadolu Medical Center stated that hormonal therapy and treatment regarding its side effects should not be neglected even in these pandemic times; and he shared crucial information for many cancer patients that will be useful particularly during Coronavirus pandemic.
What is hormonal therapy in cancer and how is it done?
Hormones are proteins produced by the body and they control the growth of cells. Some parts of the body require gender hormones like estrogen or testosterone to work and multiply. Other than these, there are other hormones on different tasks like thyroid or insulin hormones. Growth of some cancers is also dependent on hormones. In that case, medications that disrupt, block or stop the mechanism of that specific hormone are necessary in treatment of such cancers. These treatments are called “hormonal therapies”.
Are There Any Side Effects of Hormonal Therapies?
Hormonal therapies do have side effects. These are related to the hormonal medication in use and some of them can be really troublesome for the patient. It is important to understand what those side effects are when deciding for treatment. Therefore, it will be possible to create a balance between treatment’s benefits and the trouble it causes. Most frequently encountered side effect is hot flashes. Additionally, medications used in prostate cancer can decrease libido, prevent erection, cause bone loss and fatigue and lead the way to weight gain and loss of attention. Again, hormonal therapies used for breast cancer can cause hot flashes, but also vaginal dryness, cause fatigue, nausea, pain in muscle and joints as well as decreasing libido. They can cause weakness in bones to the extent that fracture risk will be evident. More rarely, they can also cause cancer, thrombus and stroke.
Are we immunosuppressed when receiving hormonal therapies for cancer?
Although hormonal therapies have many side effects, they do not have any general side effect on immune system. Therefore, it is not necessary to take an additional medication to boost immune system during hormonal therapy. However, side effects of hormonal therapies must be thoroughly understood, precautions to deal with those effects must be consulted to the physician and those precautions must be taken without any pause. If side effects worsen or continue despite those support interventions, then a physician must be consulted again. Treatments for side effects do not necessarily have to be in a medication form. For example, exercise can play a part to revert bone weakness. Taking vitamin-mineral supplements like calcium can also be beneficial.
In which types of cancer can hormonal therapy be used?
If hormones play a part in the growth of a cancer’s cells, which is true for prostate cancer, breast cancer and gynecological cancers, then hormonal therapies or anti-hormone therapies can have benefits. But anti-hormone therapies are not primarily beneficial in many other frequently encountered cancers like lung, colon or stomach cancer, since their cells are not hormone-driven when it comes to multiplying.