Your doctor will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.
Hormones are chemicals that our bodies make. Hormones act as messengers and help control how cells and organs work. Hormonal therapies are drugs that change the way hormones are made or how they work in the body.
Most prostate cancers need the hormone testosterone in order to grow. Leuprorelin stops the testicles making testosterone and lowers the level of testosterone in the body. It may be used before or after surgery or radiotherapy, or on its own.
Oestrogen can encourage breast cancer to grow. Leuprorelin stops the ovaries making oestrogen and lowers the level of oestrogen in the body. You only have leuprorelin if you not been through menopause. You may have it along with other hormonal therapy drugs, or on its own.
Leuprorelin is given as an injection under the skin (subcutaneously) or into a muscle (intramuscular).
There are different types of leuprorelin. Some are given once a month and some are given once every 3 months. Your nurse or doctor will talk to you about your treatment plan.
Your practice nurse at your doctor’s surgery is usually the person who gives you the injections. If you are not able to visit the surgery, a district nurse can give you the injections at home. Tell your doctor or nurse if you are taking any medicines to thin your blood, as this may increase bruising.
You may have some pain, swelling, redness, or a darker colour around the area that was injected. Let your doctor know if this happens. Painkillers may help.
We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some less common side effects.
You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them. If you are also having treatment with other cancer drugs, you may have some side effects that we have not listed here. Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have.
Your doctor can give you drugs to help control some side effects. It is important to take them exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explains. This means they will be more likely to work for you. Your nurse will give you advice about managing your side effects. After your treatment is over, most side effects start to improve.
Serious and life-threatening side effects
Some cancer treatments can cause severe side effects. Rarely, these may be life-threatening. Your cancer doctor or nurse can explain the risk of these side effects to you.
Contact the hospital
Your nurse will give you telephone numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call them at any time of the day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.
We cannot list every side effect for this treatment. There are some rare side effects that are not listed. You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information.
Hot flushes and sweats
Hot flushes are a common side effect of this treatment. During a flush, your neck and face may feel warm and look red. Flushes may last from a few seconds up to 10 minutes. You may have sweats and then feel cold and clammy. Some people feel anxious or irritable during a hot flush.
There are things you can do to try to reduce flushes:
- Wear clothes made from natural fabrics, such as cotton.
- Wear layers of clothes that you can remove if you feel hot.
- Use cotton bed sheets and have layers of bedding that you can remove if you feel hot.
- Keep room temperatures cool or use a fan.
- Have cold drinks rather than hot ones. Try to avoid drinks with caffeine in them.
You may have fewer hot flushes and sweats as your body adjusts to hormonal treatment. Or your doctor can prescribe drugs to help. Flushes and sweats usually stop a few months after treatment finishes, but some people continue to have them.
If you have prostate cancer your testosterone levels may increase for the first few days or weeks when you start leuprorelin. This may make some symptoms worse. Doctors call this tumour flare.
Your doctor may prescribe another hormonal therapy tablet to prevent or reduce tumour flare. You usually start taking these tablets before starting leuprorelin. You may need to continue taking them for a few weeks.
Women may have a lower sex drive while taking this treatment. Talk to your doctor or nurse for advice.
Men often lose their sex drive and have erection difficulties during hormonal therapy. They may also find their testicles reduce in size. Things often return to normal after you stop taking the drug, but some men continue to have difficulties after treatment is over. Your doctor can prescribe treatments to help with erection difficulties. But these treatments will not increase sex drive.
We have more information about coping with the effects of treatment on your sex life.
Change in periods
In women, your monthly periods should stop while you are having this treatment. This is caused by the lower levels of oestrogen in the body. Tell your doctor if this does not happen.
When you finish treatment, your periods are likely to start again. But some women go through their natural menopause during treatment and their periods do not come back.
Even if your periods stop, you can still become pregnant. You need to make sure that you use effective contraception. You can discuss this with your doctor or nurse.
Vaginal bleeding or dryness
This treatment can cause vaginal changes. You may have bleeding when you start this treatment, or if you change to it from another treatment. If bleeding continues for more than a few days, tell your doctor or nurse.
You can use non-hormonal creams, gels or lubricants to help with vaginal dryness and any discomfort during sex. You can buy these from a chemist, or your doctor can prescribe them. We have more information about cancer and sex.
Feeling tired is a common side effect. Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest. Gentle exercise, like short walks, can give you more energy. If you feel sleepy, do not drive or operate machinery.
This treatment may cause headaches. If this happens, tell your doctor or nurse. They can give you painkillers.
Leuprorelin can make you feel sick (nausea) but this is usually mild. If it does not improve, your doctor can give you anti-sickness drugs to help.
If you have diarrhoea that does not get better, tell your doctor or nurse. They can give you medicines to help.
Loss of appetite
This treatment can affect your appetite. Do not worry if you do not eat much for a day or two. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, tell your nurse or dietitian. They will give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements.
Muscle or joint pain
You may get pain in your muscles or joints. If this happens, tell your doctor so they can give you painkillers. Being physically active may help with the pain and keep your joints flexible. Keeping to a healthy weight may help too. Tell your doctor or nurse if the pain does not get better.
You may have some mood changes during this treatment. You may feel low or depressed. Let your doctor or nurse know if you notice any changes.
Memory and concentration
You may notice changes in your memory. You may also find it harder to concentrate. To help you remember things, try using:
- a notebook
- notes on your phone
- a calendar.
Breast swelling or tenderness
Bone thinning (osteoporosis)
If you take this treatment for several months or more, you may get bone thinning. This is called osteoporosis. This can increase your risk of a broken bone (fracture). You may have bone density scans to check your bone health before and during treatment.
Doing regular exercise, such as walking, can improve your bone health. Eating a healthy diet can help too. Your doctor may prescribe drugs called bisphosphonates to help protect your bones. They may also advise you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Weight gain and loss of muscle strength
Effects on the liver
This treatment may affect how your liver works. This is usually mild. You will have blood tests to check how well your liver is working.
Some people have an allergic reaction while having this treatment. Signs of a reaction can include:
- feeling hot or flushed
- a skin rash
- feeling dizzy
- a headache
- feeling breathless.
If you feel unwell or have any of these signs, tell a doctor or nurse straight away. Do not take any more of this treatment until you have spoken to them.
Effects on the heart
This treatment can affect the way your heart works. Your doctor may do tests to see how well your heart is working. You may have these tests before, during, and sometimes after treatment.
Contact a doctor straight away if you:
- have pain or tightness in your chest
- feel breathless or dizzy
- feel your heart is beating too fast or too slowly.
Other conditions can cause these symptoms. But it is important to get them checked by a doctor.
Raised blood sugar levels
This treatment can raise your blood sugar levels. If you have a raised blood sugar level, you may:
- feel thirsty
- need to pass urine (pee) more often
- feel tired.
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms.
If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may be higher than usual. Your doctor will talk to you about how to manage this. You may need to change your insulin or tablet dose.
Swollen ankles or hands
Dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness
Blood clot risk
Cancer and some cancer treatments can increase the risk of a blood clot. Symptoms of a blood clot include:
- pain, redness or swelling in a leg or arm
- chest pain.
If you have any of these symptoms, contact a doctor straight away.
A blood clot is serious, but can be treated with drugs that thin the blood. Your doctor or nurse can give you more information.
Some medicines can affect how this treatment works or be harmful when you are having it. Always tell your cancer doctor about any drugs you are taking or planning to take, such as:
- medicines you have been prescribed
- medicines you buy in a shop or chemist
- vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.
Tell other doctors, pharmacists or dentists who prescribe or give you medicines that you are having this cancer treatment.
You can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) for more detailed information about your treatment.
Medical and dental treatment
If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are having cancer treatment. Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor so they can ask for advice.
If you think you need dental treatment, talk to your cancer doctor or nurse. Always tell your dentist you are having cancer treatment.