Hormone Therapies

Hormone therapy is a medical treatment for blocking, removing or adding hormones for different purposes in both men and women. 

With age, production of certain hormones decreases; with a hormone therapy, you can alter the production rate. Similarly, for cancer cells feeding on hormones, hormone therapy can control and reduce the production of certain hormones before final chemotherapy.

Hormones are naturally produced chemicals in the human body that are imperative for coordination of bodily functions throughout the body. There are various important hormones in our body such as testosterone, thyroid hormone, epinephrine, estrogen, progesterone, insulin, and cortisol.

Hormonal therapy doesn’t necessarily involve replacement of hormones, instead certain medications and external application of specific medicines can help in dampening the hormone production. For tumour removal, surgery isn’t a direct treatment. With medication, hormones are shrunk for final radiation therapy or removal.

What is Hormone Therapy?

Hormonal therapy has recently gained popularity that is targeted to add, block, or remove hormones to primarily dampen or halt the cancer cells growth as they are dependent upon hormones for growth. In other words, hormone therapy is referred to as endocrine therapy, hormone withdrawal therapy or hormone manipulation. Hormone therapy can also act as an additional treatment with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or surgery in the case of cancerous cells.

To block the hormonal action, receptor cells are blocked to prevent the triggering activity from unnecessary activation of cells and hormone production. To halt the production of hormones, either medication or surgery is done. To prevent hormone activation, the shape of receptor cells is changed.

Hormone therapy is aimed at treatment of cancer cells, while hormone replacement therapy for men and women is targeted to replace the entire hormones.

an effective way to treat the unwanted effects of aging
The passing of time leads to a variety of changes caused by shifts in the balance of hormone production. As we age our production in hormone levels typically drop, which cause several unwanted symptoms.

Types of Hormone Therapy:

Different types of hormonal therapies are available to alter the levels of productions of certain hormones. 

  • Surgery: Surgery involves removal of glands or organs to altogether block the production of certain hormones.
  • Radiation Therapy: It is done to damage or destroy specified hormone-producing tissues to stop hormone production.
  • Hormone Therapy Treatment: Certain drugs interfere with the hormone-producing cells to prevent hormone production. Few drugs are used to work against the actions of a hormone. Cancerous cells dependent upon hormones have hormone-binding receptor cells. Once the receptors are destroyed, the hormones can no longer bind to the cancerous receptors. Or certain hormones that are used to treat cancer are increased within the body. 

Hormone Therapy for Cancer:

Hormone therapy is opted for treating breast or prostate cancers if the cancer cells are using hormones to grow. Hormone treatment for cancer involves increasing the production of certain hormones within the body via injections or medication. 

For example: 

  1. Corticosteroid (steroid) hormones treat cancers including leukaemia, multiple myeloma, and lymphoma. When combined with chemotherapy drugs, they are far more effective. To increase the production of these anti-cancer hormones, certain drugs such as prednisone, dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, and methylprednisolone are used. 
  2. Thyroid Hormones: Thyroid stops the growth of thyroid tumours after radiation therapy or surgery. 

Hormone treatment for cancer can:

  1. Reduce the tumour size prior to radiation therapy or surgery like that Thyroid hormones. It is known as neoadjuvant therapy.
  2. Decrease the risk of cancer risk after the treatment is complete. It is knowns as adjuvant therapy.
  3. Destroy the returning cancer cells that are spreading out in different parts of the body after the treatment.

Side Effects of Hormone Therapy:

Hormone therapy has certain side effects because it interferes or stops the normal functioning of hormones. The side effects can vary for men and women, and also the kind of treatment you had to go through.

Here are certain common side effects:

  1. Weakened bones
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. Hot flashes
  4. Loss of interest in sex
  5. Nausea
  6. Tender or enlarged breasts
  7. Fatigue

Define Hormonal Therapy Medication for Hormonal Imbalance:

Hormonal imbalances are common in women. Hormonal imbalances are also responsible for unnecessary mood swings and emotional outbursts. But, the major system of the body that’s affected by undue hormonal changes and imbalances is the reproductive system. Hormonal imbalances in female can lead to heavy periods, endometriosis, and even infertility

The major reasons for hormonal imbalances are high stress level, increased cortisol production, unhealthy diet, insufficient sleep, diabetes, menopause, thyroid, pregnancy, and various other health conditions. 

Treatments of hormonal imbalances includes:

  1. Hormone Control Or Birth Control: Women who don’t wish to get pregnant can take medications involving oestrogen and progesterone for regulating the menstrual cycles normally. Birth control pills, patch, shot, intrauterine device is used to prevent the imbalances.
  2. Hormonal Replacement Medication: Several medications are used to reduce the symptoms associated with menopause, hormonal therapy is opted for. 
  3. Vaginal Estrogen: Vaginal dryness due to irregular estrogen level can be treated by applying creams externally on the vaginal tissues to reduce the severity of symptoms. As a hormone therapy, estrogen tablets and rings are available to decrease dryness. 
  4. Eflornithine (Vaniqa): It is prescribed for reduction in facial hair growth in women. 
  5. Clomiphene and Letrozole: The two medicines are taken to cure the symptoms of PCOs, especially to stimulate ovulation. Otherwise, gonadotropin injections are also administered to increase the chances of pregnancy in both infertile and PCOs women.
  6. Anti-androgen medications: Women who have excessive production of androgen causing acne and hair growth or hair loss excessively take the medicines to block the predominant male-sex hormone. 

Testosterone Medication: Men facing the problem of stunted puberty or delayed puberty have decreased level of testosterone production. To reduce the symptoms of hypogonadism or decreased testosterones, various gels and patches are used.

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Hormone Therapy for Men:

Hormone therapy for men is basically targeted at increased production of testosterone in case of hypogonadism or lower levels of testosterone production. Testosterone production is required for:

  • Building muscle bulk
  • Bone density
  • Reproduction
  • Healthy levels of red blood cells
  • Male sexual development

Men having unnaturally subdued levels of testosterone production can opt for hormone therapy. Especially in case of hypogonadism, where the dysfunctional testicles prevented the body from producing the required amount of testosterone.

However, in case of aging men, the lowered production of testosterone is quite natural. For that purpose, hormone therapy or testosterone therapy wouldn’t be as much effective or recommended. Men with healthy levels of testosterone production cannot boost the production once the aging process has set in.

The types of testosterone therapies available for men are:

  1. Intramuscular testosterone injections—injected in buttocks after every 2 to 3 weeks
  2. Testosterone patches—applied on the arms, back, buttocks, and abdomen regularly for proper muscle production.
  3. Tropical testosterone gel—it is applied on abdomen, shoulders, and arms to boost testosterone levels within the male body.

Side Effects of Testosterone Therapy:

Side effects of a hormone therapy are undeniable. Although the side effects are minor in case of testosterone therapy, yet you need to know them before jumping into it. 

The potential side effects of hormone therapy for men includes:

  1. Increased urination
  2. Acne
  3. Fluid retention

In case of severe side effects, you may experience:

  1. Breast enlargement
  2. Reduced testicle size
  3. Reduced sperm count
  4. Increase in cholesterol levels
  5. Increase in the number of red blood cells production
  6. Infertility
  7. Blurry vision
  8. Chest pain
  9. Blood clots
  10. High blood pressure
  11. Muscular pain

Hormone Therapy for Women:

Hormone therapy or hormone replacement therapy is often chosen by women during menopause when the estrogen level falls. The severe and irritable symptoms of menopause include vaginal dryness and hot flashes. Various medications are taken to cope up with the symptoms. On the other end, Hormone replacement therapy or menopausal hormone therapy or estrogen therapy is opted for as the most effective treatment of menopause.

Estrogen Therapy:

Generally, it is suggested for women having hysterectomy-the surgery done to remove the uterus. For the therapy, regular patch or pill is used, or the hormone is applied in the form of vaginal gel, ring, or spray.

  1. Estrogen Pill: Estrogen pills are popular treatment for menopausal symptoms. Yet, it should be taken with great care and after following the instruction of the doctor. The pills taken for estrogen therapy are Estratab, Femtrace, Premarin. Duavee, Ogen, Cenestin, etc.
  2. Estrogen Patch: Estrogen patch is worn on the abdomen skin. Patches are replaced after every few days or weeks depending upon the usage. Commonly Vivelle-Dot, Climara, Estraderm, Alora are available.
  3. Topical Estrogen: Gels, sprays, and creams also help in absorption of estrogen by the body. Gels such as Divigell, Estrogen; creams such as Estrasorb, and Sprays such as Evamist are commonly used.  
  4. Vaginal Estrogen: It comes in tablet, ring and cream forms. It is targeted to reduce vaginal dryness, burning, pain, and itchiness. Tablets such as Veginfem; insertable rings such as Femring; and creams such as Premarin are used.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Side Effects:

Hormone replacement therapy in women leads to varying side effects that you must consider before taking the therapy:

  • Nausea
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Breast tenderness or swelling
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue

Note: The information provided is intended to provide knowledge to the readers. For medical advice, consult your doctor for right prescription according to your health condition.

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