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Hormone Therapy For Men: Side Effects

Before you agree to launch your program of hormone therapy, be aware of side effects that may occur as well as the basic pros and cons of using hormones.

Hormone therapy can be tremendously beneficial and can effectively stave off your cancer spread for years, but it shouldn't be taken lightly. When you take hormones (or have an orchiectomy), your body reacts to the orchestrated change in body chemistry. Some side effects of hormone medications may be annoying, aggravating, or really difficult, depending on the type of drug you take, the dose, whether you take one or more hormones, and your own physiology and general health. If you take hormones for a short period, you shouldn't have any problem tolerating their side effects.

When you take hormones, tell your physician about any side effects you experience. Don't be the strong and silent type who never complains. The downside of never complaining is that your doctor has no idea how much you're suffering, so he won't offer you any medications or other solutions to make you feel significantly better. Your family members will appreciate it too, because men who don't feel well can be very difficult people to be around.

The following sections describe common side effects you may experience when taking hormones.

Hot Flashes

When most people think of hot flashes - which are momentary feelings of heat all over your body, like you were quickly thrown into a sauna and then tossed right out again - they think of older women going through menopause. But men can experience hot flashes, as well.

If you find that the hot flashes caused by your hormone therapy are really difficult for you to cope with, talk to your doctor. A variety of established medicines can help alleviate your hot flashes, such as a very low dose of estrogen or a hormone drug called Megace (generic name: megestrol acetate). Some alternative medicines may also help with hot flashes.

Irritability & Mood Swings

Hormones can transform Mr. Nice into Mr. Extremely Irritable. If you're suffering from bouts of extreme irritability, don't worry: You're not having a total and permanent personality change. But the emotional impact of your irritable behavior can be tough for you (and your loved ones) to take.

As much as possible, make a concerted effort to think first before snarling and lashing out. Count to ten when you find that your emotions are difficult to control. It really does help. You need to realize that, when you get used to the hormone therapy or it's done, Mr. Nice (or Mr. Average, or whoever you were before hormone therapy) will be back in the driver's seat of your mind again. If the hormone therapy is permanent, the mood swings will lessen with time. If the mood changes become too severe, ask your doctor about antidepressants or other mood-altering therapies. They usually work.

Decreased Sex Drive

When you take hormones to fight cancer, your sex drive may be very low or even reduced to zero. With no sex drive, you'll likely become impotent. Impotence may upset your partner, but it may not upset you a lot, because of your missing-in-action sex drive - except that you may feel bad that you really can't have intercourse with your partner while you're taking hormones. (But don't forget: Just because you can't have intercourse doesn't mean that you have to give up sex altogether. You can still pay attention to your partner sexually, even if you're not in the mood yourself.)

If you're on intermittent therapy, your doctor may eventually take you off hormones for awhile. In many cases, your sexual desire and potency will return after the drugs are out of your system and you begin producing testosterone again.

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