Leuprorelin acetate is a hormonal therapy drug used to treat prostate cancer. It can be given alone or with other types of treatment. It is best to read this information with our general information about hormonal therapies and the type of cancer you have.
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. Almost all testosterone in men is made by the testicles. A very small amount is made by the adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys.
Leuprorelin stops the testicles from making testosterone. This reduces testosterone levels and may shrink the prostate cancer or stop it growing. It may be used before or after surgery or radiotherapy. It may also be used to control prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (advanced or metastatic prostate cancer).
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
These are common. During a flush, your neck and face may feel warm and look red. Flushes can last for a few seconds or for up to 10 minutes. You may have sweats 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.
- Dress in layers of clothes that you can remove as needed.
- Use cotton sheets and have layers of bedding.
- Keep the room temperature 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. Some people continue to have flushes and sweats, but they usually stop a few months after treatment finishes.
You can read more about coping with hot flushes and managing hormonal symptoms in our information on prostate cancer.
When you start this treatment, your testosterone levels may increase for the first few days or weeks. This may make some symptoms that are caused by the cancer worse. Doctors call this tumour flare. Your doctor may prescribe a hormonal therapy for you to take as a tablet to prevent or reduce tumour flare. You usually start taking the hormonal therapy tablets before starting the cancer treatment drug. You usually continue taking them for a few weeks.
Most men lose their sex drive and have erection difficulties during hormonal therapy. Some men 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.
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.
Dizziness, blurred vision, drowsiness
This treatment can cause dizziness, blurred vision or drowsiness. Do not drive or operate machinery if you have these side effects. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you notice any of these effects.
Leuprorelin can make you feel sick (nausea) but this is usually mild. If it doesn’t 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.
Weight gain and loss of muscle strength
You may gain weight, particularly around your waist, and you may lose some muscle strength. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help control your weight. Resistance exercises, such as lifting weights, may help you to reduce the loss of muscle strength. Ask your doctor or nurse for advice.
Bone or joint pain
You may get pain in your bones or joints. If this happens, tell your doctor so they can give you painkillers. Being physically active and keeping to a healthy weight may help with the pain and keeps your joints flexible. Let your doctor or nurse know if it 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 or 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
This treatment can cause swelling and tenderness of your breast tissue. This is called gynaecomastia. Your doctor can give you advice on how this can be prevented or treated.
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.
Effects on the liver
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.
Risk of heart changes
There may be an increased risk of developing changes in heart rhythm or heart disease when taking this treatment. Let your doctor know if you feel your heart is beating too fast or too slowly.
Contact a doctor straight away if you have pain or tightness in your chest or feel breathless or dizzy. 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 pee (pass urine) 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 adjust your insulin or tablet dose.
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 the hormonal treatment or be harmful when you are having it. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist. Tell your cancer doctor about any drugs you are taking, including vitamins, herbal drugs and complementary therapies.
Some drugs can affect whether you can make someone pregnant.
There may be ways to preserve your fertility. If you are worried about this, it is important to talk with your doctor before you start 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.