Medroxyprogesterone acetate is a type of hormone therapy. It is used to treat cancers of the breast, uterus, and kidney that have spread or have returned after being treated.
HOW DOES MEDROXYPROGESTERONE 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.
Many types of breast cancer depend on hormones to grow. Medroxyprogesterone is a man-made drug that is similar to the female hormone progesterone. Doctors believe it may work by interfering with the body's hormone balance. Doing so may slow the cancer's growth.
TAKING YOUR MEDROXYPROGESTERONE TABLETS
Medroxyprogesterone is a tablet. It is usually taken once a day at the same time each day. Always take the pills exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has told you. This is important to ensure that it is working as well as possible. Here are some important things to remember:
- If you forget to take a pill, take one as soon as you remember. Except when it is almost time for your next dose, do not take a double dose.
- Keep the pills in their original packaging at room temperature. They should be stored away from heat and direct sunlight.
- Store your pills in a safe place out of the reach of children.
- Get a new prescription before the one you have runs out, and keep track of holidays, when pharmacies may be closed.
- Return the remaining pills to the hospital if the treatment is discontinued.
You and your doctors will discuss what length of treatment is appropriate for your situation. The treatment can be continued as long as it is effective in controlling the cancer.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF MEDROXYPROGESTERONE
Here, we explain the most common side effects of medroxyprogesterone. 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.
If you notice you develop any side effects that are not listed here, talk to your doctor or nurse.
The most common side effect is feeling hungrier than normal, which may lead to weight gain. If you are concerned about gaining weight, talk to your doctor or nurse. This side effect will go away once the treatment ends.
Having a bigger appetite may be useful if you need to put on weight after cancer-related weight loss.
Some people feel nauseous, especially during the first weeks after starting to take medroxyprogesterone. Your doctor or nurse can prescribe antiemetic pills to help.
SWELLING OF THE HANDS, FEET, AND ANKLES
Your hands, feet, and ankles may swell because of fluid build-up. This does no harm, though it can be uncomfortable. Do not wear tight-fitting rings if your hands swell. Let your doctor or nurse know if you notice you are having fluid build-up. The swelling will improve after your treatment ends.
CHANGES IN THE BREAST
Your breasts may be tender. This is not harmful, though you should tell your doctor if it happens.
Sometimes, women may have mild vaginal bleeding. If this happens, tell your doctor.
When you stop taking the drug, it is likely that you will have some vaginal bleeding that resembles a period.
Medroxyprogesterone can cause mood swings in some people. You may feel anxious or restless, have mood swings, or have trouble sleeping. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects.
You may feel more tired than usual. Try to strike a balance between periods of rest and some physical activity such as short walks. Doing this can help you feel less tired.
If, before starting to take medroxyprogesterone, you have had migraines (a severe type of headache), these may worsen while taking the drug. Tell your doctor if you are having more headaches than usual.
You may develop a skin rash. Tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin.
EFFECTS ON THE LIVER
Effects of medroxyprogesterone on the liver are normally slight, and you are unlikely to notice any symptoms. If you do have changes in the way your liver functions, though, this will return to normal once the treatment is over. You will have regular blood tests done to see how your liver is working.
This happens rarely. Get in touch with your doctor immediately if you feel suddenly unwell or have difficulty breathing, intense itchiness, or swelling of the face or tongue.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MEDROXYPROGESTERONE
Although women may find that their period stops while taking medroxyprogesterone, they can still become pregnant. Always use a reliable contraceptive method during the treatment.
Medroxyprogesterone can interact with other drugs. This includes medications that can be purchased in a store or pharmacy. Tell your doctor if you are taking any drugs, including complementary therapies, vitamins, and herbal remedies.
HIGH LEVELS OF CALCIUM IN THE BLOOD
Occasionally, people who have cancer that has spread to the bones can develop high levels of calcium in the blood within a few weeks of starting to take medroxyprogesterone. Your doctor will give you periodic blood tests to check your calcium levels. If you have symptoms such as thirstiness and pass large volumes of urine, have difficulty thinking clearly, loss of appetite, pain, constipation, or malaise, talk to your doctor or nurse for advice.
If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may be higher than usual while you are taking the drug. Your doctor will talk to you about how to manage this.
RISK OF BLOOD CLOTS
This treatment can increase your chances of having a blood clot. If you have ever had a blood clot, tell your doctor this before starting to take medroxyprogesterone. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms that could possibly be indicative of a blood clot. These may include chest pain or reddening, pain, heat, swelling, or tenderness in an arm or leg.
If you are admitted to the hospital for any reason not related to cancer, it is important that you tell the doctors and nurses caring for you that you are undergoing hormone treatment.