Hormone Therapy for Prostate Cancer: What to Know

Q. What should I know about Lupron Depot as a hormone therapy for prostate cancer?

A. Lupron Depot is the brand name for leuprolide, one of several hormonal drugs used to treat prostate cancer. It works by suppressing production of testosterone, a male hormone that can fuel the progression of the disease.

Leuprolide falls into a class of drugs called luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists. Other drugs in this class include goserelin (Zoladex), triptorelin (Trelstar), and histrelin (Vantas).

Hormone therapy was once reserved for men whose prostate cancer had spread to other sites, but now it’s often given preemptively to men whose cancer hasn’t spread but is expected to. For men with advanced cancer, it’s used to prolong life and relieve symptoms.

Lupron Depot is given as an injection in intervals of either one, three, four, or six months, depending on the formulation. An effective weapon in controlling prostate cancer, as a hormone therapy it does come with some serious side effects.

For one, right after the shot, it can cause a surge of testosterone lasting about two weeks, which may result in increased bone pain and swelling of the prostate, blocking urine flow. Your doctor may prescribe another drug, called an antiandrogen, to prevent this reaction.

The most common side effects are hot flashes, loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction,), and weight gain, but they’re usually reversible after treatment ends.

Hormone therapy can also raise your risk for metabolic syndrome, a group of five conditions—high blood glucose; high blood pressure; low HDL cholesterol, or good cholesterol; high triglycerides; and abdominal obesity, which makes you more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes,and stroke. Work with your doctor to make sure these factors are kept in check.