Friday, April 09, 2010

Is Hormone Drugs Dangerous To Heart Disease Patients?

Being second most common cancer in men worldwide after lung cancer, prostate cancer kills 254,000 a year globally.

Hormone-based drugs, which block tumor-fueling surges of testosterone, were supposed to help most men with aggressive prostate cancer. Such therapy, however, does have some side effects.

As soon as treatment begins, some patients might experience impotence, hot flushes and sweating, breast tenderness, tumor flare pain. For those patients who are on long-term treatment, other side effects including weight gain, memory problems, mood swings and depression, bone thinning (osteoporosis) and even risk of earlier heart attack, might occur.

A paper that was published on August 25, 2009 in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that such hormone-based drugs might be dangerous for some men with heart disease.

After studying cases of more than 5,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer between 1997 and 2006, researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston reported that those with more than one form of heart disease or diabetes were most likely to die when they got the drugs along with radiation therapy.

The men in the study received both radiation treatment (either external beam radiation or litter radioactive pellets known as brachytherapy) and one of several hormone-based drugs to suppress testosterone production.

It was found that more than 400 died over a follow-up period of 5 years. Men who had heart failure or heart attack were more than twice as likely to die as those without heart disease or who had just one symptom, such as high blood cholesterol. The finding actually showed that 26 percent of the men with heart failure or who had heart attack died, comparing to 11 percent of others.

The number of dead was just 5 percent of the total number of men in the study. As such, the researchers explained why overall, the hormone therapy still helps many other cancer patients. But they also advised doctors to pay attention to their patients with serious heart disease and should be aware of the possible risk that these patients would have.

In fact, some doctors are starting to give less aggressive treatment for some patients as many prostate tumors are slow-growing and take years to cause harm.

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