The co-authors of Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers, blog alternate posts weekly. We invite you to post your comments.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Preventing Hormone Therapy Side Effects


Side effects vary from patient to patient and are influenced by types of testosterone inactivation pharmaceuticals (TIP) used, and by the duration of treatment. However, a number of interventions are available that can substantially reduce these adverse side effects.

Loss of Libido
Libido is an emotional attraction to the opposite sex (in most cases). Libido is not the same thing as potency, which is defined as the ability to get an erection. TIP causes loss of libido about 90% of the time.  Libido returns when TIP is stopped though some men say libido after TIP is chronically diminished. Loss of libido and the cessation of sexual activity has wide ranging ramifications far beyond the intended scope of this blog. Specialists in sexual counseling are available and can be of great assistance.

Erectile Atrophy
Whether or not couples continue to have sexual intercourse after treatment, we counsel men to induce daily erections to counteract the risk of penis shrinkage. Cialis or Viagra should be taken daily.  If this fails to restore the normal pattern of nighttime erections then either a vacuum pump or injection therapy should be considered.  

Muscle Atrophy
Muscle mass can be maintained with a strength training program. Walking, aerobics, and stretching are healthy but accomplish little toward building muscle mass. Strength training that is effective requires a program similar to that undertaken by body builders.  Ideally, strength training requires a minimum of two, one-hour sessions weekly during which all the major muscle groups are exercised: Pectorals, Deltoids, Biceps, Triceps, Latissimus dorsi, Upper and lower back muscles, Abdominals, Gluteus, Quadriceps, Hamstrings, and Calf muscles. Three sets of 10-12 repetitions should be undertaken with weight selected to result in muscle failure toward the end of the third set.

Fatigue and Lassitude
Tiredness and weakness from TIP are a direct result of muscle loss and reversible with strength training. Strength training is very effective for counteracting fatigue. Men who begin strength training when they initiate TIP will not only forestall tiredness, they can actually increase their strength.

TIP causes accelerated calcium loss from the bones, termed osteoporosis. Untreated bone loss can result in hip and spine fractures. Osteoporosis can be prevented with medications such as Prolia, Xgeva, Zometa, Boniva, Actonel and Fosamax which should be initiated when TIP is started.  See the booklet titled Osteoporosis available** soon at for further details.  

Hot Flashes
Hot flashes occur in about two-thirds of men on TIP. When severe, a progesterone injection (depo provera) can dramatically reduce hot flashes. Other prescription medications, which are effective about half the time, are low dose Effexor, a medication approved for the treatment of depression, and Neurontin, a medication approved to prevent seizures. Transdermal estrogen patches are very effective but sometimes cause breast enlargement or nipple tenderness.

Weight Gain pamphlet_diet
TIP slows metabolism causing weight gain. Keeping a stable weight is easier than trying to lose weight. It is wise to evaluate your diet at the time of starting TIP to see if fat and sugar intake can be reduced. See the brochure about diet from the PCRI for more details.

Breast Growth
Breast growth (even without estrogen patches) occurs frequently in men treated with Casodex monotherapy and less frequently, about one-third of the time, in men treated with other forms of TIP. If there is any evidence for breast growth or nipple tenderness, therapy with an estrogen blocking pill called Femara should be started immediately.  Alternatively, a short course of radiation to the nipples can be administered prior to starting TIP.  

Blood is a mixture of red cells and "serum" (water). When the proportion of red cell is diminished it is termed anemia. Severe anemia can cause shortness of breath. Milder degrees cause fatigue. Anemia reverses when TIP is stopped. If anemia is severe, it can be corrected with a medication called Aranesp. Iron is not beneficial.

Joint pains particularly in the hands but sometimes in other joints are common and often improve with glucosamine, Motrin or Celebrex.

Liver Changes
Casodex and Flutamide occasionally cause serious liver problems. This is detected by blood tests that need to be done routinely after starting TIP. The problem is easily reversible if detected early and the medication is stopped.  

Mood Swings
Men on TIP occasionally mention increased intensity in their emotions. Some find this effect unpleasant whereas others enjoy it. For men with the former attitude, low doses of medications such as Zoloft or Paxil can reverse the unpleasant feelings.

Final Thoughts
My general impression after many years treating men with TIP is that treatment is quite tolerable if side effects are expertly managed. Preventative measures such as weight lifting and diet are critically important. Checking blood tests for anemia and liver function is essential. Side effects like joint pains, hot flashes, depression, emotional swings, breast enlargement and impotence can be greatly reduced with judicious medical care.

**email us to receive Osteoporsis booklet --

1 comment:

Tom Belt said...

While I totally agree with your recommendations on interventions that can be used to mitigate the side effects of TIP side effects, the key words “expertly managed” and “judicious medical care”, respectfully, hit a cord with me. In my case at age 54, with a Gleason 9, T3b biopsy/diagnosis treated using IMRT and ADT, I have suffered through a year of debilitating side effects, with another two years to go. These side effects were not effectively communicated by my Urologist/Radiation Oncologist, not expertly managed, nor were judicious medical care administered. While I now take full responsibility for my PCa treatment, it was only through reliable Internet sites that I have discovered your preventative measures. (And yes, they do work!) My opinion formed from my experience and those that I have observed on various “blogs” is that medical professionals have not yet recognized, nor embraced, that all aspects of treating a man with PCa must be addressed with the same vigor that a woman with breast cancer experiences. I realize it will take men as a whole to begin to stand up, drive, and demand that level of “entire person” care just like women did years ago to drive that much needed change in philosophy. I applaud you efforts to provide trusted education and direction that fills in that gap.