Hormone therapy for cancer of unknown primary
Hormones are substances that control some body functions, including how cells act and grow. Hormone therapy adds, blocks or removes hormones to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells that need hormones to grow. Hormone levels can be changed or blocked by drugs, surgery or radiation therapy.
A few people with cancer of unknown primary (CUP) may have hormone therapy. You may be offered hormone therapy if your doctors think the CUP will respond to it. If you have hormone therapy, your healthcare team will use what they know about the cancer and about your health to plan your treatment.
Hormone therapy may be the only treatment you have or it may be used along with other cancer treatments. Hormone therapy may be used to:
- treat the cancer
- relieve pain or control the symptoms of advanced CUP (called palliative therapy)
Hormone therapy by where the CUP may have started @(Model.HeadingTag)>
You may be offered hormone therapy if your healthcare team thinks the CUP started in the breast or prostate or if you have a neuroendocrine CUP.
Hormone therapy for CUP that may have started in the breast @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Hormone therapy may be offered when the healthcare team thinks that the breast is the
Find out more about hormone therapy for breast cancer.
Hormone therapy for CUP that may have started in the prostate @(Model.HeadingTag)>
The prostate may be the primary site of CUP that is found in a bone in people who have a high
Find out more about hormone therapy for prostate cancer.
Hormone therapy for neuroendocrine CUP @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Well-differentiated neuroendocrine CUP may be treated with a type of hormone therapy drug called somatostatin analogues.
Somatostatin analogues lower the amount of hormones made and released by neuroendocrine tumours. They are used to slow down and control the growth of well-differentiated neuroendocrine CUP.
The somatostatin analogues used for neuroendocrine CUP are:
- octreotide (Sandostatin)
- lanreotide (Somatuline Autogel)
Find out more about drug therapy for neuroendocrine tumours, including somatostatin analogues.
Side effects of hormone therapy @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Side effects of hormone therapy will depend mainly on the type of hormone therapy, the dose of a drug and your overall health. Tell your healthcare team if you have side effects that you think are from hormone therapy. The sooner you tell them of any problems, the sooner they can suggest ways to help you deal with them.
Common side effects of hormone therapy drugs used for CUP that may have started in the breast or prostate are:
- hot flashes and sweating
- treatment-induced menopause
- weight gain
tumour flare reaction
Common side effects for somatostatin analogues used for neuroendocrine CUP are:
- gallbladder problems, including gallstones
- fatty stool (steatorrhea)
- pain in the abdomen
- nausea and vomiting
- high or low blood sugar (glucose) levels
Find out more about hormone therapy @(Model.HeadingTag)>
Find out more about hormone therapy and side effects of hormone therapy. To make the decisions that are right for you, ask your healthcare team questions about hormone therapy.
Details on specific drugs change regularly. Find out more about sources of drug information and where to get details on specific drugs.
Expert review and references
Tien Le , MD, FRCSC, DABOG
American Cancer Society . Treating a Cancer of Unknown Primary . 2018 : https://www.cancer.org/.
American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). Cancer.net: Unknown Primary: Types of Treatment. 2021: https://www.cancer.net/.
Fizazi K, Greco FA, Pavlidis N, Daugaard G, Oien K, Pentheroudakis G . Cancers of unknown primary site: ESMO clinical practice guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up . Annals of Oncology . 2015 : 26(Supplement 5):v133–v138 .
PDQ Adult Treatment Editorial Board. Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Treatment (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2018: https://www.cancer.gov/.
Yentz S, Bhave M, Cobain E, Baker L. Cancer of Unknown Primary. DeVita VT Jr., Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer; 2019: Kindle version, ch 108, https://read.amazon.ca/?asin=B0777JYQQC&language=en-CA .