Nowadays, breast cancer has become rampant. The condition affects men and women; anyone is at risk. It may be detected through breast examination or during an x-ray; this is when the medical care provider may prescribe Zoladex for breast cancer.
Zoladex and Breast Cancer
Zoladex is an example of hormonal therapy to manage breast cancer; it’s a man-made hormone which regulates the body function when used. The active ingredient is goserelin. It belongs to a family of medicine known as LHRH or GnRH analog. It’s a prescription drug available as an implant which is injected by a doctor in a hospital or a clinic.
This medication mimics the role of natural gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH or LHRH). Naturally, the pituitary gland produces and stores different types of hormones, such as luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). In males, LH stimulates the testes to release testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone and testosterone triggers the production of sperm by the testes. In females, FSH as well as LH makes the ovaries to produce estrogen and controls the monthly cycle. The quantity of FSH and LH secreted from the pituitary gland is regulated by LHRH (gonadorelin). LHRH stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH, which leads to the production of estrogen in women and testosterone in men. When the drug is taken; it acts in a similar manner like natural LHRH.
At first, the drug leads to an increase of FSH and LH secreted from one’s pituitary gland, but the continuous administration of the medication desensitizes the pituitary gland; so, reduced output of follicle stimulating hormone as well as the luteinizing hormone. Consequently, production of estrogen in women and testosterone in men is stopped. Because of the reduction of these sex hormones, some disorders like breast cancer associated with estrogen and testosterone is used to treat them.
Some type of breast cancer (estrogen receptor positive breast cancer) depends on estrogen hormone to grow and spread; this sex hormone act as fuel for cancer to grow and spread. Since breast cancer is sensitive to estrogen, Zoladex for breast cancer is used. When the injection is given, estrogen production is stopped, the cancer cells are starved and tumors eventually shrink. The medicine comes in prefilled syringes injected under the skin, preferably in the abdomen. It dissolves gradually and the drug is released into the bloodstream between injections (at least four weeks); in most cases, a patient will receive Zoladex 3.6 mg for breast cancer every 28 days. Nevertheless, the dose may be individualized, especially if you are on chemotherapy sessions
It’s worthwhile to note that a patient who has just started Zoladex breast cancer treatment may encounter new or worsening symptoms of breast cancer for the first few weeks. As explained above, initially, production of FSH and LH increases before decreasing, hence, production of estrogen increases. Breast cancer symptoms worsen or new ones come up since there is excess estrogen to support it to spread. Thus, in the first few weeks of the treatment, one is closely monitored and should inform the physician if the symptoms worsen. But after a few weeks, the production of estrogen is suppressed and the growth shrinks.
If used by a woman who is yet to get to menopause, the menses stop while on the Zoladex implant. If the periods are regular, contact the doctor. A missed dose can lead to breakthrough bleeding. Once you have stopped using this medication, expect to have regular periods after 12 weeks
The medication may interfere with blood sugar levels, even though one isn’t diabetic, therefore, the blood glucose will be checked regularly while on Zoladex therapy.
During the course of Zoladex in breast cancer treatment, one will encounter side effects for example:
- Back pain
- Loss of appetite
- Breast tenderness
- Pain or redness at the injection spot
- Low sex libido
- Weight gain
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
- Vaginal burning, itching or dryness
- Hot flashes
- Stopping of menstrual periods
The just listed side effects are usually mild and clear after a few days, although others will remain for example stopping of monthly periods unless you are no longer on the injection. If the unwanted effects are bothersome, inform the medical care provider. He may give remedies on how to manage them. Below are undesired effects which will require medical intervention right away:
- Bone pain
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
- Joint pain
- Mood changes like depression or anxiety
- Heart failure, symptoms are swelling of the feet, fatigue, and shortness of breath
- Signs of elevated blood sugar level like increased thirst, blurred vision, frequent urination, weight loss or fatigue
You may experience negative effects other than those outlined above. Refer to the doctor if you detect signs that make you panic while on Zoladex.
Does the Drug Have Other Uses?
Zoladex isn’t limited to cancer treatment, it’s also used to:
- Manage prostate cancer in men – the growth of prostate cancer is stimulated by testosterone hormone, hence, Zoladex is prescribed to men to slow the growth rate of cancer as testosterone levels are decreased.
- To treat endometriosis – it is a condition in which a tissue similar to the uterus lining grows in other places in the body like ovaries or the fallopian tube. The condition depends on estrogen to grow, if Zoladex is given, the growth of the tissue is slowed or stopped as levels of estrogen are reduced. Endometriosis treatment using Zoladex is six months.
- It’s used to thin the endometrium (lining of the womb) before endometrial surgery is carried out. A woman will receive one to two injections, depending on the size of the uterus.
- To treat fibroids – when this medicine is used in women with fibroids, estrogen levels are reduced as well as the size of the fibroids. The drug is also used before surgery in women who are anemic due to fibroids. To treat fibroid, the injection is administered every four weeks for a period of three months.
- As part of fertility treatment during in vitro fertilization – it’s used in a woman having challenges with conception as a result of problems with ovulation. One injection of the medication is given to desensitize your pituitary gland and prevent the production of natural FSH and LH. Then, man-made FSH, LH and human chorionic gonadotropin are given to induce ovulation artificially.
Zoladex has a number of uses as explained in the article. But remember, when used for breast cancer, it is not a cure, but it relieves the symptoms and extends life expectancy.