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Goserelin (Zoladex, Novgos) for prostate cancer

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Goserelin is a type of hormone therapy used to treat breast cancer and prostate cancer. This page tells you about its use for prostate cancer and there are sections about

 

What goserelin is

Goserelin is a type of hormone therapy drug called a luteinising hormone (LH) blocker. It is also called Zoladex or Novgos. It stops the pituitary gland releasing luteinising hormone. In men, this stops the testicles producing the male sex hormone, testosterone. In women, it stops the ovaries from producing oestrogen.

Prostate cancer depends on testosterone to grow. The aim of hormone therapy for prostate cancer is to reduce or stop the body making testosterone, which slows down the growth of cancer or shrinks it.

 

How you have goserelin

You have goserelin as an injection just under the skin of your tummy (abdomen). It is called a depot injection, which means that the drug is absorbed slowly into your body over a period of time. You might have the injection

  • Every 4 weeks (after 28 days you will need another injection)
  • Every 12 weeks (Zoladex LA – long acting)

You should try to make sure you have the injection on time. A few days won’t make a big difference but the aim is to stop you producing testosterone and the injections are made to last for either 4 or 12 weeks. If you are late having the injection you may start making testosterone again.

We have general information about hormone therapies in the cancer treatment section.

We've listed the side effects associated with goserelin below. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect. Where there is no link, please go to the cancer drug side effects section or click on search at the top of the page.

 

Common side effects

More than 10 in every 100 men have one or more of these.

  • Problems getting an erection (impotence) occur because you are not producing testosterone while you have treatment – this usually gets better between 3 and 12 months after finishing treatment
  • Skin rashes are usually mild – let your doctor or nurse know if you have one
  • Painful joints
  • Hot flushes and sweats occur in 6 out of 10 men (60%) during treatment and for some time afterwards. They are caused by the fall in testosterone levels. Tell your doctor or nurse if they are difficult to cope with
  • Lowered interest in having sex (low libido)
  • Breast tenderness and swelling in about 3 out of 10 men (30%) – this can be distressing so your doctor may suggest a small dose of radiotherapy before treatment to try and prevent it
  • Tumour flare causing increased pain for the first few weeks – your doctor may give you another hormone drug to start with, to try and prevent this
  • Tingling in fingers or toes
 

Occasional side effects

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 people have one or more of these.

  • Bruising of the skin where you have the injection
  • Headaches
  • Feeling or being sick is usually mild and can be controlled by anti sickness medicines
  • Weight gain – you may find that you put on weight easily. You should be able to control this with diet and exercise, but it is sometimes a struggle to keep weight down when you are having hormone treatment
  • Hair thinning
  • Mood changes, such as depression
 

Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these.

  • Changes in blood pressure – during treatment, your blood pressure may be lower or higher than usual. Your nurse or doctor will check this regularly. Most men can continue taking goserelin, and their blood pressure usually goes back to normal either during treatment or when their treatment ends
  • Bone thinning can happen with long term treatment and you may have bisphosphonate drugs to prevent this
  • Men taking goserelin may find that the levels of sugar in their blood can change – the levels will be checked by regular blood tests. If you are diabetic, you will have to take extra care in checking your blood sugar levels
  • An allergic reaction causing sudden itching and a rash on the skin, swelling of the face, lips or tongue and wheezing or breathing problems – tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have this
  • Damage to heart muscle, which is usually temporary but for a small number of people may be permanent – your doctor will check your heart during treatment
 

Important things to remember

The side effects above may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get better or worse through your course of treatment, or more side effects may develop as the course goes on. This depends on

  • How many times you've had the drug before
  • Your general health
  • The amount of the drug you have (the dose)
  • Other drugs you are having

Coping with side effects

Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about all your side effects so they can help you manage them. They can give you advice or reassure you. Your nurse will give you a contact number to ring if you have any questions or problems. If in doubt, call them. Tell your doctor or nurse straight away if you have pain in your lower back or problems passing urine. 

Other medicines

Tell your doctor about any other medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies. Some drugs can react together.

Contraception and preventing pregnancy

Goserelin may have a harmful effect on a baby developing in the womb. You should not father a child while you are having treatment. Discuss effective contraception with your doctor before you start your treatment if this is a possibility.

 

More information about goserelin

This information does not list all the very rare side effects of this treatment that are very unlikely to affect you. For further information look at the Electronic Medicines Compendium website at www.medicines.org.uk.

If you have a side effect not mentioned here that you think may be due to this treatment you can report it to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) at www.mhra.gov.uk.

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Updated: 11 March 2013