Degarelix is a hormone therapy used to treat advanced prostate cancer.
HOW DOES DEGARELIX WORK?
Hormones are substances produced naturally in the body. These act as chemical messengers and help control the activity of cells and organs. Hormone therapies interfere with the way hormones are made or formed in the body.
Most prostate cancers need the hormone testosterone to grow. Almost all of the testosterone in men is made by the testicles. A small amount is made by the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys. Degarelix stops the testicles from producing testosterone. This lowers testosterone levels and may shrink the prostate cancer or stop its growth.
WHEN IS DEGARELIX GIVEN?
It is also used to control prostate cancer in men whose cancer has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic prostate cancer).
Some men may receive intermittent therapy with degarelix. This means having degarelix treatment over a number of months until the cancer is at a very low level (measured by a blood test called a PSA test). Following this, you have a rest from the treatment and resume degarelix when it is necessary.
Your doctor or nurse will explain how long you are going to be having the treatment.
HOW IS DEGARELIX ADMINISTERED?
Degarelix is injected below the skin (subcutaneously) of the belly. On your first day of treatment, a nurse will give you two injections of the drug. After this, you will receive one injection a month.
The injections are usually given by a nurse.
Some people may find the injection to be a bit uncomfortable and notice reddening or a dark discoloration around the area. Tell your doctor if this becomes bothersome.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF DEGARELIX
Here, we explain the most common side effects of degarelix. You may experience some of the side effects mentioned here, though it is rare for a patient to have all of them. If you are taking other drugs, you may have certain side effects that are not listed here.
Always inform your doctor or nurse of the side effects you experience. They can prescribe drugs to help control them and can also give you advice on managing side effects.
SHIVERS, FEVER, OR FLU-LIKE SYMPTOMS AFTER THE INJECTION
Some men develop these symptoms a few hours after having the injection. These tend to get better in a few hours. Get in touch with your nurse or cancer doctor if you have these symptoms. They can give you advice on what to do.
HOT FLASHES AND SWEATING
These are common and can be mild or more severe. While having a hot flash, you feel warmth in the neck and face, and your skin may turn red. Mild hot flashes can last from a few seconds to about a couple of minutes. More severe hot flashes can last 10 minutes or more. You may have sweats and then feel chills and clamminess. Some people feel anxious or irritable during a hot flash.
There are things you can do to try to reduce your hot flashes such as giving up nicotine, alcohol, and hot beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee and tea.
If the hot flashes are bothersome, your doctor can prescribe medication to help lessen them.
Hot flashes and sweating get better as your body adapts to the hormone treatment. They usually stop completely a few months after the treatment ends.
Most men can lose their sex drive and have erection difficulties during the hormone therapy. These often return to normal after they stop taking the medication, though some keep having difficulties after the treatment is over. Your doctor can prescribe treatments to help with erection problems.
You may feel tired and without energy. Try to pace yourself if you feel tired. Try to strike a balance between getting enough rest and staying physically active. Evidence indicates that regular exercise may reduce tiredness in men who are on hormone therapy.
If you feel drowsy, don't drive or operate heavy machinery.
Occasionally, people develop mild skin rashes. This often gets better without treatment. Tell your doctor if you develop a rash.
MUSCLE OR BONE PAIN
If you have pain or stiffness in your muscles or bones, your doctor can prescribe painkillers to give you relief.
This is normally mild. Your doctor can prescribe antiemetic drugs if this is necessary.
This is not common. Drink plenty of fluids if this is the case—at least two liters a day. Your doctor can prescribe antidiarrheal tablets if necessary.
DIZZINESS, BLURRINESS OF VISION, DROWSINESS
Sometimes, degarelix can cause these side effects. Avoid driving and operating machinery if you have these.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF LONG-TERM USE OF DEGARELIX
Some men who take degarelix over longer periods of time may experience side effects.
WEIGHT GAIN AND LOSS OF MUSCLE STRENGTH
You may gain weight—especially in the waist—and you may lose some muscle strength. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help you control your weight. Resistance exercises such as lifting weights can help reduce loss of muscle strength.
You may have changes in your mood. Some men feel down or depressed for a few months after taking degarelix. Tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your mood.
MEMORY AND CONCENTRATION
You may notice changes in your memory or ability to concentrate. Try to use a notebook, post-it notes, and a calendar to help keep a log of things.
CHEST SWELLING OR SENSITIVITY
You may notice slight swelling and tenderness in the chest area. This is called gynecomastia. Your doctor can give you advice on how to prevent or treat this.
BONE THINNING (OSTEOPOROSIS)
Over time, taking degarelix increases the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis). In some men, this may increase the risk of bone fractures. If necessary, your doctor can give you advice on controlling and treating this. Exercise such as walking and resistance exercises such as lifting weights can help keep your bones strong. Eating a healthy diet and not smoking will also help protect your bones. Tell your doctor if you have any discomfort in the bones or joints.
EFFECTS ON THE LIVER
Degarelix can sometimes affect the liver. The effect is usually mild and does not prevent you from continuing to take degarelix. Your doctor may have you take periodic blood tests to check on your liver.
RISK OF HEART DISEASE AND DIABETES
When taking degarelix, there may be a higher risk of developing heart disease, changes in heart rate, or diabetes. Overall, however, the benefits of the treatment outweigh its possible risks. You can talk to a specialist about the possible risks and benefits of your situation. It is important that you notify your doctors if you have ever had problems with your heart rate or if you are taking any medication for this.
Eating a healthy diet, not smoking, keeping alcohol consumption within recommended limits, maintaining a healthy weight, and physical activity can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Degarelix can affect how well other drugs work. If you are taking other drugs to treat heart problems such as procainamide, amiodarone, or sotalol or drugs that can affect your heart rate (such as methadone, moxifloxacin, and antipsychotics), tell your doctor before starting on the treatment.
Tell your doctor if you are taking any drugs, including complementary therapies, vitamins, and herbal remedies.
MISSING AN INJECTION
If an injection is delayed for 2 to 3 days, it should not make much of a difference. However, you should try to have your injections as regularly as possible.
If you have to go to the hospital for whatever reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are taking degarelix. Explain to them that you are undergoing hormone therapy that no one should stop or restart if it is not done under the advice of a cancer doctor.