What are olaparib (Lynparza®) and abiraterone?

Olaparib is also called Lynparza®. It is a type of targeted therapy drug called a PARP inhibitor.

Abiraterone is a hormonal therapy. Abiraterone is given with steroid tablets. The steroids help reduce some of the side effects of abiraterone.

Olaparib and abiraterone are used together to treat prostate cancer when it has spread to other parts of the body, and it has stopped responding to existing hormonal therapy. This is called hormone-relapsed metastatic prostate cancer.

It is best to read this information with our general information about targeted therapy drugs, hormonal therapy, steroids and the type of cancer you have.

Your cancer team will talk to you about this treatment and its possible side effects before you agree (consent) to have treatment.

More information about this treatment

This information is correct at time of publishing. But sometimes the types of cancer this treatment is used for, or treatment side effects, may change between revision dates.

You can talk to your cancer team if you want more detailed information about this treatment. Or visit the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website, which has patient information leaflets (PIL) for individual drugs.

How olaparaib and abiraterone work

PARPs are proteins that help damaged cells to repair themselves. Olaparib blocks (inhibits) how PARP proteins work. Without PARP proteins, cancer cells may become too damaged to survive, and die. This can help control the cancer.

Hormones are chemicals that our bodies make. They act as messengers and help control how cells and organs work. Hormonal therapy drugs change how hormones are made or work in the body.

Prostate cancer needs a hormone called testosterone to grow and spread. Testosterone is mainly made in the testicles. Abiraterone reduces the amount of testosterone made by the body. This can help control prostate cancer.

How olaparib and abiraterone are given

You continue having your existing hormonal therapy while you are taking olaparib and abiraterone. 

You will be given olaparib and abiraterone as tablets to take at home. You will also be given steroid tablets called prednisolone to take every day.  

During treatment, you will meet someone from your cancer team, such as a: 

  • cancer doctor 
  • specialist nurse 
  • specialist pharmacist.  

This is who we mean when we mention doctor, nurse or pharmacist in this information. 

During treatment, you will have regular blood tests. This is to check that it is safe for you to have treatment.

You will meet with a doctor, nurse or pharmacist regularly during treatment. They will talk to you about your blood results and ask how you have been feeling.  

You usually keep taking olaparib with abiraterone for as long as it is working for you and any side effects can be managed. Do not stop taking your treatment unless your doctor tells you to.

Taking olaparib and abiraterone tablets

Your cancer team will give you the olaparib and abiraterone tablets to take home. They may give you tablets of different strengths.  They will also give you steroid tablets to take with the abiraterone.

These steroid tablets are usually called prednisolone. Always take olaparib, abiraterone and prednisolone exactly as they tell you to. This is important to make sure they work as well as possible for you. Follow any advice given about your steroid tablets.  

Your cancer team may also give you anti-sickness drugs and other medicines to take home. Take all your capsules or tablets exactly as they tell you to. 
Olaparib is usually taken twice a day. It can be taken with or without food. Grapefruit or grapefruit juice can affect how olaparib works, so you should not eat or drink grapefruit while you are taking olaparib.  

Abiraterone is usually taken once a day. Taking abiraterone with food can affect how it works and increase side effects. So you should not eat for 2 hours before taking abiraterone and for 1 hour after taking it.  

When taking your treatment, make sure you: 

  • swallow the tablets whole with a glass of water  
  • do not chew, break or crush them 
  • take them at the same times every day.    

If you forget to take a dose of olaparib, abiraterone or steroid tablets, take the next dose at the usual time. If you have missed more than 1 dose, contact the hospital for advice. Do not take a double dose to make up for the missed one. 

Other things to remember about your tablets: 

  • Keep them in the original package and at room temperature, away from moisture, heat and direct sunlight. 
  • Keep them safe, where children cannot see or reach them. 
  • If you are sick (vomit) just after taking them, do not take an extra dose. Take your next dose at the usual time. 
  • Do not throw away unused tablets. Return them to your cancer team at the hospital. 


This treatment may contain lactose. If you have a lactose allergy or intolerance, ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for more information.

Taking steroid tablets

Take the steroid tablets exactly as your cancer team tells you to and follow any advice given. If you have a medical emergency, the amount you take may need to change. Your doctor will tell you if you need to change the amount. Do not stop taking steroid tablets unless your doctor tells you.

About side effects

We explain the most common side effects of this treatment here. We also include some that are less common. 

You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are unlikely to get all of them. And you may have some side effects, including rarer ones, that we have not listed here. 

Other cancer treatments may cause different side effects. If you are also having other cancer treatment, you may have other side effects.

Always tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any side effects you have. They can give you: 

  • drugs to help control some side effects 
  • advice about managing side effects. 

It is important to take any drugs exactly as explained. This means they will be more likely to work for you.

Serious and life-threatening side effects

Some cancer treatments can cause serious side effects. Sometimes, these may be life-threatening. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can explain the risk of these side effects to you.

Contact the hospital

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will give you 24-hour contact numbers for the hospital. If you feel unwell or need advice, you can call at any time of the day or night. Save these numbers in your phone or keep them somewhere safe.

Common side effects

Low blood potassium

Abiraterone can cause low levels of potassium in the blood. You will have regular blood tests to check your potassium levels. 

If your levels are very low, you may need treatment and your doctor may tell you to stop taking abiraterone. Symptoms of low potassium include: 

  • weakness 
  • twitching muscles 
  • feeling that you heart is beating harder or faster than usual. 

If you notice these symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number.

High blood pressure

Abiraterone can cause high blood pressure. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have ever had any problems with your blood pressure. You will have regular blood pressure checks when taking this drug. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have any headaches.

Build-up of fluid

You may put on weight, or your ankles and legs may swell because of fluid building up. Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice this. If your ankles and legs swell, it can help to put your legs up on a footstool or cushion.

Effects on the liver

This treatment can affect how the liver works. You will have regular blood tests to check this. If your liver is being affected, your doctor may reduce the dose or stop your treatment for a while. 

Sometimes liver changes can be serious. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms: 

  • yellow skin or eyes
  • feeling very sleepy 
  • dark urine (pee)
  • unexplained bleeding or bruising
  • pain in the right side of your tummy (abdomen). 

Risk of infection

This treatment can reduce the number of white blood cells in your blood. These cells fight infection. If your white blood cell count is low, you may be more likely to get an infection. A low white blood cell count is called neutropenia.

An infection can be very serious when the number of white blood cells is low. It is important to get any infection treated as soon as possible. If you have any of the following symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number:

  • a temperature above 37.5°C 
  • a temperature below 36°C
  • you feel unwell, even with a normal temperature
  • you have symptoms of an infection.

Symptoms of an infection include:

  • feeling shivery and shaking
  • a sore throat
  • a cough
  • breathlessness
  • diarrhoea
  • needing to pass urine (pee) often, or discomfort when you pass urine.

It is important to follow any specific advice your cancer treatment team gives you.

You will have regular blood tests during treatment. If your white blood cell count is low, your doctor may stop your treatment for a short time, until your cell count increases. Sometimes they will reduce the dose of your treatment.

Bruising and bleeding

This treatment can reduce the number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are cells that help the blood to clot.

If the number of platelets is low, you may bruise or bleed easily. You may have: 

  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding gums
  • blood in your urine (pee) or stools (poo)
  • tiny red, brown or purple spots that may look like a rash – these spots can be harder to see if you have black or brown skin.

If you have any unexplained bruising or bleeding, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. You may need a drip to give you extra platelets. This is called a platelet transfusion.

Anaemia (low number of red blood cells)

This treatment can reduce the number of red blood cells in your blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. If the number of red blood cells is low, this is called anaemia. You may feel:

  • very low in energy
  • breathless 
  • dizzy and light-headed. 

If you have these symptoms, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. You may need treatment for anaemia. If you are very anaemic, you may need a drip to give you extra red blood cells. This is called a blood transfusion.

Feeling sick

Some people can feel sick with this treatment. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist may prescribe you anti-sickness drugs to help prevent or control sickness. Take the drugs exactly as they tell you to. If you feel sick, take small sips of fluid often and eat small amounts regularly. It is important to drink enough fluids.

If you continue to feel sick, or if you are sick (vomit) 1 to 2 times in 24 hours, contact the hospital on the 24-hour number as soon as possible. They will give you advice.

Changes to your taste

Some foods may taste different or have no taste. Try different foods to find out what tastes best to you. You may also get a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can give you advice. It might help to try:

  • sucking sugar-free sour or boiled sweets
  • eating cold foods
  • eating sharp-tasting fresh fruit.

We have more information about coping with changes to taste.

Sore mouth and throat

This treatment may cause a sore mouth and throat. You may also get mouth ulcers. This can make you more likely to get a mouth or throat infection. Use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth or dentures in the morning, at night and after meals.

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number, if:

  • a sore mouth or throat affects how much you can drink or eat 
  • your mouth, tongue, throat or lips have any blisters, ulcers or white patches. 

They can give you advice, and mouthwash or medicines to help with the pain or to treat any infection. Follow their advice and make sure you:

  • drink plenty of fluids
  • avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • avoid food or drinks that irritate your mouth and throat.

Loss of appetite

This treatment can affect your appetite. Don’t worry if you do not eat much for 1 or 2 days. But if your appetite does not come back after a few days, or if you are losing weight, tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They can give you advice. They may give you food or drink supplements. Or they may suggest changes to your diet or eating habits to help.


This treatment may cause diarrhoea. Diarrhoea means passing more stools (poo) than is normal for you, or having watery or loose stools. You may also have stomach cramps. If you have a stoma, it may be more active than usual. 

If you are passing loose stools 3 or more times a day and this is not normal for you, contact the hospital as soon as possible on the 24-hour number. Follow the advice they give you about:

  • taking anti-diarrhoea medicines 
  • drinking enough fluids to keep you hydrated and to replace lost salts and minerals
  • any changes to your diet that might help. 

They might also ask you for a specimen of your stool to check for infection.

Tummy pain

You may get pain in your tummy (abdomen), or have indigestion. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can give you advice or treatment to help. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if your symptoms do not go away, or get worse.

Effects on the heart

This treatment can affect how the heart works. You may have tests to check how well your heart is working. These may be done before, during and after treatment.

If the treatment is causing heart problems, your doctor may change the type of treatment you are having.

Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms during or after treatment:

  • breathlessness
  • dizziness
  • changes to your heartbeat
  • swollen feet and ankles.

Other conditions can cause these symptoms, but it is important to get them checked by a doctor. 

Always call 999 if you have:

  • chest pain, pressure, heaviness, tightness or squeezing across the chest
  • difficulty breathing.

Raised level of triglycerides

This treatment can raise the level of triglycerides. This is a fatty substance in the blood. You may have a blood test to check this. Your doctor may refer you to a dietitian for advice on diet or prescribe medicines to control your levels.

Bone thinning (osteoporosis)

Taking this treatment for several months or more can increase the risk of bone thinning. This is called osteoporosis. It can make you more likely to get a broken bone (fracture). 

You may have bone density scans to check your bone health before and during treatment. These scans can diagnose osteoporosis or osteopenia (low bone density) so that it can be monitored. If your scan shows osteoporosis, your doctor usually prescribes:

  • drugs to protect your bones called bisphosphonates
  • calcium and vitamin D supplements. 

Regular exercise where you support your body weight, like walking, running and dancing, can help look after your bones. This is called weight-bearing exercise. Other types of strength exercises are also helpful. If you have any bone thinning or the cancer is affecting your bones, get advice from your cancer team first. 

Eating a healthy diet and not smoking also helps take care of your bones.

Skin changes

This treatment can affect your skin. It may cause a rash, which may be itchy. Your doctor or nurse can tell you what to expect. If your skin feels dry, try using soap-free cleansers and unperfumed moisturising cream every day.

Always tell your doctor or nurse about any skin changes. They can give you advice and may prescribe creams or medicines to help.

Raised blood sugar levels

This treatment can raise your blood sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes. 

Signs of raised blood sugar include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • needing to pass urine (pee) more often than usual
  • feeling more tired than usual. 

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms. They can do tests to check your blood sugar level and give you advice.

If you already have diabetes, your blood sugars may be higher than usual. You may need to check them more often, or make changes to your diabetic treatment. Your diabetic doctor or nurse will talk to you about how to manage this.

Muscle or joint pain

You may get pain in your muscles or joints. If this happens, tell your doctor or nurse. They can give you advice and painkillers or other drugs to help. Being physically active and keeping to a healthy weight may help with the pain. It can keep your joints flexible and reduce stress on them. If the pain does not get better, tell your doctor or nurse. They may talk to you about changing to a different hormonal drug.

Feeling tired (fatigue)

Feeling tired is a common side effect. Try to pace yourself and plan your day so you have time to rest between activities.

Being physically active can help to manage tiredness and give you more energy. It also:

  • helps you sleep better
  • reduces stress
  • improves your bone health.

If you feel sleepy, do not drive or operate machinery.


This treatment may cause headaches. If you have headaches, tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist. They can give you advice about painkillers that may help. Tell them if the headache does not get better, or gets worse.


You may feel dizzy during this treatment. Tell your doctor or nurse if this is difficult to cope with. If you feel dizzy, do not drive or operate machinery.

Effects on the kidneys

This treatment can affect how the kidneys work. This is usually mild. You will have blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working. Contact the hospital on the 24-hour number if you:

  • have blood in your urine (pee)
  • are passing less urine or peeing less often than usual.

Drinking fluids helps protect your kidneys. The advice is usually to try to drink at least 2 litres (3½ pints) of fluid each day. But follow any advice from your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about how much is right for you.

Less common side effects

Allergic reaction

This treatment might cause an allergic reaction. But this is not common. Signs of a reaction can include: 

  • a skin rash or itching
  • feeling breathless or wheezy
  • swelling of your face, mouth or throat.

If you feel unwell or have any of these signs, contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number. Do not take any more of this treatment until you have checked with them.

Effects on the lungs

This treatment can cause changes to the lungs. Tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you develop: 

  • a cough that does not go away
  • wheezing
  • breathlessness.

You should also tell them if any existing breathing problems get worse. You may have tests to check your lungs.

Adrenal gland problems

Abiraterone can cause problems with the adrenal glands, but this is not common. The adrenal glands sit at the top of the kidneys and produce hormones. If they do not produce enough of certain hormones, you may feel:

  • feel tired and exhausted 
  • feel dizzy and light-headed when standing up 
  • crave salty food. 

Taking prednisolone can help prevent this side effect. It is important to tell your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you notice these symptoms.

Other important information

Blood clot risk

Cancer and some cancer treatments can increase the risk of a blood clot. Contact the hospital straight away on the 24-hour number if you have any of these symptoms during or after treatment:

  • throbbing pain or swelling in a leg or arm
  • reddening of the skin in the area – if you have black or brown skin, this can be harder to notice, but the skin might become darker
  • suddenly feeling breathless or coughing.

Always call 999 if you have:

  • chest pain
  • difficulty breathing.

A blood clot is serious, but it can be treated with drugs called anticoagulants. These thin the blood. Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist can give you more information about preventing and treating blood clots.

Other medicines

Some medicines can affect how this treatment works or be harmful while you are having it. Always tell your cancer doctor, nurse or pharmacist about any drugs you are taking or planning to take, such as: 


Doctors usually recommend that people with cancer have vaccinations for flu and for coronavirus (covid). These help reduce your risk of serious illness from these infections. Most people can have these vaccines, including people with weak immune systems.

If your immune system is weak, you should not have live vaccinations. Live vaccines can make you unwell because they contain a very weak version of the illness they will protect you against. Live vaccines include Zostavax®, which is a shingles vaccine, and the yellow fever vaccine.

It is important to ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist for advice about having vaccinations. They can explain what vaccines are right for you and when it is best to have them.

Driving and using machines

This treatment may affect your ability to drive and use machines. If you feel dizzy, weak or tired, do not drive or use tools or machines.


Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will advise you not to make someone pregnant while having this treatment and for some time afterwards. The drugs may harm a developing baby. It is important to use contraception to prevent pregnancy. Follow their advice about:

  • what types of contraception to use
  • how long after treatment you should continue to use contraception. 


Some cancer drugs can affect whether you can make someone pregnant. If you are worried about this, it is important to talk with your doctor before you start treatment.

You must not donate sperm while you are on this treatment and for 3 months afterwards.


It is possible that small amounts of olaparib may be passed on through semen. If you have sex during this treatment, your cancer team will usually advise using condoms to protect your partner.

Medical and dental treatment

If you need medical treatment for any reason other than cancer, always tell the healthcare professional that you are having cancer treatment. Give them the contact details for your cancer doctor or cancer team so they can ask for advice.

If you have appointments with a dentist, always tell them you are having cancer treatment. Talk to your cancer team before you have any dental treatment.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert health professionals and people living with cancer.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

The language we use

We want everyone affected by cancer to feel our information is written for them.

We want our information to be as clear as possible. To do this, we try to:

  • use plain English
  • explain medical words
  • use short sentences
  • use illustrations to explain text
  • structure the information clearly
  • make sure important points are clear.

We use gender-inclusive language and talk to our readers as ‘you’ so that everyone feels included. Where clinically necessary we use the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ or ‘male’ and ‘female’. For example, we do so when talking about parts of the body or mentioning statistics or research about who is affected.

You can read more about how we produce our information here.

Date reviewed

Reviewed: 01 April 2024
Next review: 01 October 2026
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum
Trusted Information Creator - Patient Information Forum

Our cancer information meets the PIF TICK quality mark.

This means it is easy to use, up-to-date and based on the latest evidence. Learn more about how we produce our information.