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What Is Androgen Deprivation Therapy?

By Jennifer Long
Updated May 17, 2024
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Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is also known as androgen suppression therapy or hormone therapy. It is a type of prostate cancer treatment. The goal is the management of prostate cancer through a reduction of male hormones, or androgens.

Male hormones, such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, are primarily made in the testicles. These hormones are the primary cause of prostate cancer. They cause cancer cells to grow, which leads to tumors. Like other cancer treatments, androgen deprivation therapy is not a cure for the cancer. It is used as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan designed to shrink tumors.

There are specific men that are the most likely candidates for androgen deprivation therapy. Men with prostate cancers who cannot have surgery or cannot undergo traditional treatments may benefit from hormone therapy. If a patient has been previously treated for prostate cancer and it has returned, hormone therapy is an option to be used with other treatments. Hormone therapy may also be recommended as a way to shrink tumors before radiation or surgery.

Androgen deprivation therapy is actually a broad term. There are five different types of this hormone therapy. An oncologist will determine which type is appropriate for each individual case.

An orchiectomy is a type of surgery used to reduce androgen hormones. The testicles are removed, which drastically reduces the production of testosterone. Although this produce is fairly simple, it is permanent. Many men are concerned about how they will look or feel with the absence of these parts, so whenever possible, silicone implants can be added to rectify this issue.

Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) antagonists and analogs are two more types of androgen deprivation therapy. The LHRH antagonists and analogs are either injected or implanted just under the skin. Analogs cause an increase in testosterone production before they begin to prevent production, which is why anti-androgen medication is often prescribed to prevent the flare up. Antagonists function similarly to analogs, but they do not cause an initial flare up.

Anti-androgen and other androgen-reducing medications are the other two types of androgen deprivation therapy. These medications block the body from using any androgens. They are usually combined with another type of therapy. Other androgen-reducing medications are also available and often used when other treatments are not successful.

Doctors must closely monitor men who are undergoing androgen deprivation therapy. Due to the reduction of hormones, conditions such as osteoporosis and anemia can occur. Patients are also monitored for diabetes, hypertension, and heart attacks. When caught early enough, serious damage can be prevented.

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