Megestrol acetate is a hormone therapy drug used most often to treat breast cancer that has spread. Sometimes, it is also used to treat uterine or prostate cancer.
HOW DOES MEGESTROL 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. Megestrol is similar to the female sexual hormone progesterone. It may work by interfering with the body's hormone balance, thus slowing the growth of cancer. It may also act directly on cancer cells so that they can't grow.
Your doctors will explain what length of treatment they believe to be appropriate for your situation. The treatment can be continued as long as it is effective in controlling the cancer.
TAKING YOUR MEGESTROL TABLETS
Megestrol is a tablet. It is usually taken once a day at the same time each day. It is sometimes prescribed to be taken in divided doses. 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. There are certain important things to remember when taking the tablets:
- Take the tablet with a glass of water with meals or after eating.
- 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.
- Keep them 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.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF MEGESTROL
Here, we explain the most common side effects of megestrol. 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. This affect on your appetite goes away once you stop taking the medication. If you are concerned about gaining weight, talk to your doctor or nurse.
Sometimes, megestrol is used to help boost people's appetite when they have lost interest in food and and losing weight.
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. Let your doctor or nurse know if you notice any swelling. The swelling will improve after your treatment ends.
You may feel tired and lacking energy when having megestrol. Take it easy if you feel tired. Try to strike a balance between periods of rest and some physical activity.
FEELING SICK AND INDIGESTION
Some people feel nauseous, especially during the first weeks after starting to take megestrol. Tell your doctor if this affects you. They may prescribe a treatment to help you with this.
Megestrol may change your mood. You may feel anxious or restless. You can also have mood swings or trouble sleeping. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects. They can make changes in your treatment if the side effects become a problem.
Some people develop skin rashes. Tell your doctor if this happens.
Some women may occasionally have mild vaginal bleeding. Tell your doctor if this happens. When you stop taking the drug, you may have some vaginal bleeding that resembles a period.
LESS COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF MEGESTROL
HIGH LEVELS OF CALCIUM IN THE BLOOD
Sometimes, women with breast cancer that has spread to the bones may develop high levels of calcium in their blood. This can happen in the first two weeks of taking megestrol. Your doctor will give you periodic blood tests to check your calcium levels. If you have symptoms such as tiredness or thirstiness and pass large volumes of urine, have difficulty thinking clearly, loss of appetite, pain or constipation, 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 megestrol. Your doctor will talk to you about how to manage this. You may need for your insulin dose to be changed.
RISK OF BLOOD CLOTS
This treatment can increase your chances of having a blood clot. If you have ever had a blood clot, you should discuss this with your doctor before taking megestrol. Tell your doctor immediately if you have possible symptoms of a blood clot, such as chest pain or redness, pain, heat, swelling, or tenderness in an arm or leg.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MEGESTROL
It is important to use an effective method of contraception during the treatment. Though women may stop having their period during the treatment, megestrol is not a method of contraception. Megestrol should not be taken during pregnancy, as it can do harm to developing babies.
If you are admitted to the hospital for any reason not related to cancer, it is important that you tell your doctors and nurses caring for you that you are receiving hormone treatment.
Megestrol 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.