Hormones can present challenges when it comes to cancer treatment. That’s because certain cancers are fed by hormones, helping them to grow and spread more quickly. Breast cancers, for example, are often fueled by estrogen and/or progesterone; prostate cancers rely on androgen.
To treat these cancers, doctors may decide to block or interfere with hormone production in order to stop the cancer from spreading, slow it down or decrease the odds it will come back. Adjusting a cancer patient’s hormones in this way is called hormonal therapy. (It goes by a lot of other names, too, such as hormone suppression therapy, hormone deprivation therapy, hormone therapy, anti-hormone therapy or endocrine treatment.)
No matter the label, hormonal therapy may be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
“Hormonal therapy is sometimes used to control cancer growth,” explains Michael Leapman, MD, a urologic oncologist who focuses on the treatment of prostate cancers. Depending on the kind of cancer being treated—breast cancer or prostate cancer, for example—hormonal therapy can be short or long term. “For men [with intermediate and high-risk prostate cancers] receiving radiation, hormonal blockage is given for pre-specified amounts of time. However, men with advanced prostate cancers typically require long-term therapy.”
At Yale Medicine, our oncologists are experts in their specialties. They use the latest research and work collaboratively with multiple specialists to determine how to best treat a patient’s cancer.