Browser does not support script.
Skip to main content
Find out how we produce our information|
Medroxyprogesterone acetate is a hormonal therapy| that is also often called Provera ®. It’s used to treat some types of cancer and may also be used to treat some symptoms|. Throughout this section we refer to it by its more commonly used name, Provera.
The information describes Provera, how it is given and some of its possible side effects. It should ideally be read with our general information about your type of cancer|.
You’ll see your doctor regularly while you have this treatment so they can monitor its effects. This information should help you discuss any queries about your treatment and its side effects with your doctor or specialist nurse.
Provera is a hormonal therapy used to treat some cancers. It is a man-made drug that's similar to the female hormone progesterone.
Hormones are substances produced naturally in the body. They act as chemical messengers and help control the activity of cells and organs.
The way Provera works is not yet fully understood, but it's thought that it interferes with the action of the female hormone oestrogen.
Many cancers rely on sex hormones, such as oestrogen, to grow. The cancer cells have proteins called receptors that sex hormones attach to.
When oestrogen comes into contact with the receptors, it fits into them and stimulates the cancer cells to divide so that the tumour grows.
Provera disrupts this process in some way. It may be that it prevents the cancer cells from maintaining the receptors, or it may have a more direct way of destroying cancer cells that has not yet been identified.
Provera is a tablet. The tablets are available in three different strengths: 100mg, 200mg and 400mg.
They are commonly taken once a day but can be prescribed in smaller doses to be taken at regular intervals. They can be taken with food or on an empty stomach. When a single daily dose is prescribed, it should be taken at approximately the same time each day. When it’s prescribed in divided doses (to be taken more than once per day,) the doses should be evenly spaced.
Provera may be given to people who have lost weight due to cancer, as it can help improve appetite.
It can also be prescribed to reduce hot flushes in women during the menopause, and in men who have hot flushes| as a result of treatment for prostate cancer.
Each person's reaction to any medicine is different. Some people have very few side effects while others may experience more.
The side effects described here will not affect everyone. We have outlined the most common side effects but haven't included those that are rare and therefore unlikely to affect you.
Very rarely, if the side effects are severe, you may have to stop taking the drug. If this happens, a different hormonal therapy may be prescribed.
If you notice any effects that are not listed here, discuss them with your doctor or nurse.
For people who have experienced weight loss as a result of their cancer, an increased appetite can be a beneficial effect.
Some people experience mild ankle swelling caused by fluid retention|. This is not harmful but can be uncomfortable.
Occasionally women may have some light vaginal bleeding (spotting) while having treatment with Provera. Let your doctor know if this happens to you.
When you stop taking the drug you are likely to have some bleeding from the vagina, which is similar to a period.
Your breasts may feel tender and, very rarely, they may produce small amounts of milk. This is not harmful, but let your doctor know if it occurs.
Rarely, Provera can cause nervousness, sleeplessness|, drowsiness, tiredness|, dizziness, low moods and headaches. Tell your doctor if these are a problem.
Always let your doctor or nurse know about any side effects you have. There are usually ways in which they can be controlled or improved.
Provera should not be taken during pregnancy. Even though women may find that their periods stop while taking Provera, it is still possible to get pregnant. Reliable contraception must be used during treatment.
People with diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugar more closely and may need to adjust their anti-diabetic medication while having Provera. Contact your doctor if you have any problems controlling your diabetes.
People who have a history of blood clots should discuss this with their doctor before taking Provera. Rarely, it increases the risk of getting a clot.
If you’re admitted to hospital for a reason not related to the cancer, it’s important to tell the doctors and nurses looking after you that you are having hormonal treatment. You should tell them the name of your cancer specialist so that they can ask for advice.
It’s a good idea to know who you should contact if you have any problems or troublesome side effects when you’re at home.
This information has been compiled using information from a number of reliable sources, including:
With thanks to: Bruce Burnett, Teacher Practitioner in Clinical Pharmacy Practice; and the people affected by cancer who reviewed this edition. Reviewing information is just one way you could help when you join our Cancer Voices| network.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
For answers, support or just a chat, call the Macmillan Support Line free (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm)
If you have any questions about cancer, need support or just want someone to talk to, ask Macmillan.
If you have any questions about Macmillan we would love to hear from you| .
You can also follow us| on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
what are these?|