Medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera®)

Medroxyprogesterone acetate is a hormonal therapy drug used to treat breast, womb and kidney cancers. Medroxyprogesterone may also be used to improve appetite or to reduce hot flushes caused by treatment for some cancers.

It’s best to read this information with our general information about the type of cancer you have.

You have medroxyprogesterone as tablets. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you how long you will take it for.

Like all hormonal therapy drugs, medroxyprogesterone can cause side effects. Some of these can be serious so it’s important to read the detailed information below. How hormonal therapy affects people varies from person to person. Your doctor or nurse can talk to you more about this and give you advice on how to manage side effects.

Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you feel unwell or have severe side effects, including any we don’t mention here. If you need to see a health professional for any reason other than cancer, always tell them that you are having this treatment.

How medroxyprogesterone works

Hormones are substances produced naturally in the body. They act as chemical messengers and help control the activity of cells and organs. Hormonal therapies interfere with the way hormones are made or how they work in the body.

Many cancers need hormones to grow. Medroxyprogesterone is a man-made drug that is similar to the female hormone progesterone. Doctors think it may work by interfering with the hormone balance in the body. This may stop the cancer growing.


When medroxyprogesterone is given

Medroxyprogesterone is used to treat breast, kidney and womb cancers. It can be used for cancers that have started to spread to other parts of the body or have come back after treatment.

If you have a poor appetite, your doctor may prescribe medroxyprogesterone to increase it.

You may also have medroxyprogesterone to treat hot flushes due to the side effects of some cancer treatments.

Your doctor or nurse will explain why you are having medroxyprogesterone and how long you will take it for.


Taking your medroxyprogesterone tablets

Medroxyprogesterone is taken as a tablet once a day, at the same time each day. Always take your tablets exactly as your nurse or pharmacist explained. This is important to make sure they work as well as possible for you.

Do not stop taking any of your tablets unless your doctor tells you to. Here are some important things to remember:

  • If you forget to take your tablet, just take your usual dose the next day. Do not take a double dose.
  • Keep tablets in the original package at room temperature, away from heat and direct sunlight.
  • Keep them safe and out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Get a new prescription before you run out of tablets. Make sure you have enough for holidays.
  • Return any remaining tablets to the pharmacist if your treatment is stopped.


Possible side effects of medroxyprogesterone

We explain the most common side effects of medroxyprogesterone here. We also include some rarer side effects. You may get some of the side effects we mention, but you are very unlikely to get all of them. If you are having other drugs as well, you may have some side effects that we don’t list here.

You will see a doctor or nurse regularly while you have this treatment. Always tell your cancer doctor or nurse about the side effects you have. They can prescribe drugs to help control them and give you advice about managing them. Do not stop taking medroxyprogesterone without talking to your doctor first.

More information about this drug

We are not able to list every side effect for this treatment here, particularly the rarer ones. For more detailed information you can visit the electronic Medicines Compendium.

Allergic reaction

Medroxyprogesterone may cause an allergic reaction, but this is rare. Signs of an allergic reaction include a raised itchy rash; feeling flushed, dizzy or short of breath; swelling of the face or tongue; or feeling generally unwell. If you develop any of these symptoms, contact your doctor straight away for advice.

Increased appetite

The most common side effect is feeling hungrier than usual and you may gain weight. If you are worried about gaining weight, talk to your doctor or nurse. Your appetite should go back to normal when you stop treatment.

An increased appetite can be helpful if you need to put on weight because of weight loss.

Feeling sick

Some people feel sick, especially during the first few weeks of taking medroxyprogesterone. Your doctor or nurse can prescribe anti-sickness tablets to help.

Swollen hands, feet and ankles

Your hands, feet and ankles may swell because of fluid building up. This is not harmful, but can be uncomfortable. Do not wear rings that are too tight if your fingers swell. Tell your doctor or nurse if you notice any swelling. The swelling will get better after your treatment ends.

Breast changes

Your breasts may feel tender or painful. This is not harmful, but let your doctor know if it happens. They can prescribe painkillers if needed.

Vaginal bleeding in women

Sometimes, women may have light vaginal bleeding (spotting). If you notice this, tell your doctor. When you stop taking the drug, you are likely to have some bleeding from the vagina, similar to a period.

Mood changes

Medroxyprogesterone can cause mood changes in some people. You may feel anxious or restless. You may also have mood swings or problems sleeping. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects.

Tiredness

You may feel more tired than usual. Try to balance rest periods with some physical activity such as short walks. This can help you to feel less tired.

Headaches

If you have had migraines (a severe type of headache) before starting medroxyprogesterone, these may get worse. Tell your doctor if you are having more headaches than usual.

Skin rashes

You may get a skin rash that looks like acne. Tell your doctor about any changes to your skin.

Effects on the liver

Medroxyprogesterone may affect how your liver works. This is usually mild and goes back to normal after treatment finishes. You are unlikely to notice any symptoms. You will have regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working.


Less common side effects of medroxyprogesterone

Risk of blood clots

This treatment can increase the risk of getting a blood clot. If you have had a blood clot in the past, talk to your doctor before taking medroxyprogesterone.

If you have any pain, redness or swelling in an arm or leg, breathlessness or chest pain, let your doctor know straight away.

High levels of calcium in your blood

Sometimes, people who have cancer that has spread to the bones can develop high levels of calcium in their blood. This may happen within a few weeks of taking medroxyprogesterone. Your doctor will do regular blood tests to check your calcium levels.

Common symptoms of a high calcium level include:

  • feeling thirsty and passing a lot of urine
  • tiredness
  • feeling confused or irritable
  • feeling sick
  • loss of appetite.

If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or nurse for advice.

Diabetes

If you have diabetes, your blood sugar levels may be higher than usual while taking medroxyprogesterone. Your doctor will talk to you about how to manage this.


Other information about medroxyprogesterone

Other medicines

Medroxyprogesterone can affect the way that other drugs work. This includes medicines you can buy in a shop or chemist. Tell your doctor about any medicines you are taking, including complementary therapies, vitamins and herbal drugs.

Contraception

Your doctor will advise you not to get pregnant when you are taking medroxyprogesterone. This is because it may harm a developing baby. For women, it is important to use effective contraception during treatment. Even if your periods have stopped or are irregular, you still need to use contraception. You can talk to your doctor or nurse about this.

Medical treatment

If you need to go to hospital for any reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are taking medroxyprogesterone. Explain that you are taking hormonal therapy and that it should not stop or restart without advice from your cancer doctor. Tell them the name of your cancer doctor so that they can ask for advice.