What is gynecomastia?
Gynecomastia is an enlargement of the male breasts that is triggered by a hormone imbalance. For men with prostate cancer, this imbalance may be the result of hormone deprivation therapy used to reduce testosterone levels. This condition is not related to male breast enlargement due to obesity, nor is it related to a breast cancer.
Hormones and prostate cancer
Testosterone is a hormone found in both men and women. In men, it is produced in both the testicles and the adrenal glands. Testosterone is an androgen that is responsible for male characteristics such as potency, sex drive, muscle mass, and a deep voice, among others.
While testosterone doesn’t cause prostate cancer, research indicates that it can ‘feed’ prostate cancer. As a result, men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer are prescribed androgen deprivation therapy to deplete the levels of testosterone in their body. Consequently, they will experience a medically induced hormone imbalance. Some men undergoing hormone deprivation therapy develop gynecomastia.
Male breast enlargement can cause discomfort, tenderness, and pain in the breasts. Radiation therapy has been successfully utilized for gynecomastia to help control breast swelling, its associated symptoms, and to reduce breast size. At the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology, prostate cancer patients may receive radiation as a preventative measure to avoid gynecomastia, or as a treatment option for men who are already showing signs of this condition.
Radiation for this condition is generally given in very low doses with limited treatments. As a result, men experience minimal side effects, such as soreness around their nipples. Before proceeding with radiation therapy, the Radiation Oncologist will review the benefits and possible side effects with the patient.
If you are developing gynecomastia due to hormone deprivation therapy, contact the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology to schedule a consultation with Dr. Richard Garza.