Hormone Deprivation Symptoms in Men

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 02/2018

Men who receive hormone therapy for prostate cancer may experience symptoms of hormone deprivation. This is because hormone therapy lowers levels of testosterone and other male sex hormones called androgens. This type of hormone treatment is called androgen ablation therapy. It may be done with medication or an orchiectomy. An orchiectomy is an operation to remove the testicles.

Men can usually receive testosterone treatments to raise their androgen levels. But testosterone helps prostate cancer grow. So these treatments are not an option for men with prostate cancer.

Side effects and symptoms

Although androgen ablation therapy helps treat cancer, it can cause several side effects:

  • Occasional hot flashes with severe sweating

  • Thinning of the bones, called osteoporosis

  • Decreased desire for sex

  • Erectile dysfunction, which is a problem with having or maintaining an erection

  • Fatigue

  • Depression or irritability

  • Loss of muscle

  • Weight gain

Managing the side effects

Relieving side effects is an important part of cancer care and treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care. Talk with your health care team if you have any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

Osteoporosis. Men who have received androgen ablation therapy have a higher risk of osteoporosis. The following medical treatments help slow or stop bone loss especially in men. Your doctor may give these individually or in combination:

  • Alendronate (Binosto, Fosamax)

  • Pamidronate (Aredia) and zoledronic acid (Zometa)

  • Denosumab (Prolia, Xgeva)

Hot flashes. Up to 75% of men receiving hormone treatments for prostate cancer have hot flashes. The following treatments may help reduce the number and severity of hot flashes in men:

  • Antidepressants, such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and sertraline (Zoloft)

  • Nonhormonal treatments, such as gabapentin (Gralise, Neurontin)

  • Progesterone, such as megestrol acetate (Ovaban, Pallace)

  • Exercise

  • Deep breathing and other relaxation techniques

  • A cooler room temperature

Men can also make lifestyle changes to help manage side effects. This includes:

  • Exercising

  • Eating a healthy diet

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Related Resources

Prostate Cancer

Side Effects