Histrelin (Vantas) | Cancer Research UK
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What histrelin is

Histrelin is pronounced hiss-trel-in. It is also called Vantas. It is a treatment for prostate cancer that has spread outside the prostate gland to other parts of the body.


How histrelin works

Histrelin is a type of hormone therapy drug called a luteinising hormone (LH) blocker.

Prostate cancer depends on testosterone to grow. Histrelin stops the pituitary gland from making luteinising hormone (LH). Luteinising hormone triggers the testicles to make testosterone. When there is no LH the testicles don’t produce testosterone. By lowering testosterone levels histrelin can shrink the cancer or slow its growth.


How you have histrelin

Histrelin is an implant that your doctor puts under your skin in your arm. It slowly releases the drug into your body for a year.

To have the implant, your doctor first injects some local anaesthetic into an area in your upper arm to numb it. Then they make a small cut and put the implant in. They stitch the skin together and put some special surgical tape over it.

You wear a bandage over the wound for at least a day. You should not remove any of the tape over the wound. It will come off on its own. You should not wash the area or swim for 24 hours. Don’t do any heavy lifting for a week.

You will see your doctor regularly to check the area and make sure that the implant is still working. You may have blood tests to check the level of a protein called PSA produced by the prostate gland. You may also have blood tests to check your testosterone level.

Your doctor will remove the implant after a year and you may have another put in.

We've listed the side effects associated with histrelin below. You can use the links to find out more about each side effect and how to manage it.


Common side effects

Hot flushes and sweats occur in about 6 out of 10 men (60%). These are caused by low testosterone levels and may last as long as treatment continues. Tell your doctor or nurse if these effects are difficult to cope with.

You can out about ways of coping with hot flushes.


Occasional side effects

Between 1 and 10 in every 100 men have one or more of these effects

  • Problems getting an erection (impotence) may occur because you are not producing testosterone – this usually gets better within 3 and 12 months after the treatment ends
  • Low sex drive (low libido)
  • Shrinking of your testicles
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) during treatment
  • Constipation – your doctor may give you medicines to help prevent this, but tell them if you are constipated for more than 3 days
  • Kidney changes that are mild and unlikely to cause symptoms – the kidneys will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment is finished. You will have regular blood tests to check how well your kidneys are working
  • Breast tenderness and swelling – this can be distressing. Your doctor may suggest a small dose of radiotherapy before treatment to try to prevent it
  • Tumour flare causing increased pain for the first few weeks of treatment – your doctor may give you another hormone drug to start with, to try to prevent this
  • Swelling of the ankles and legs due to a build up of fluid (oedema) – this is usually mild
  • You may find that the levels of sugar in your blood can change – you will have regular blood tests. If you are diabetic, you will need to take extra care when checking your blood sugar levels
  • Liver changes that are very mild and unlikely to cause symptoms. They will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment is finished. You will have regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working
  • A skin reaction including pain and tenderness in the area of the implant
  • Weight gain – you may find that you put on weight easily. You may be able to control this with diet and exercise. But it is often difficult to keep weight down when you are having hormone treatment
  • Mood changes – you may feel sad and depressed
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Increase in hair growth
  • Painful joints
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness – don’t drive or operate machinery if you have this
  • Breathlessness after exercise
  • Blushing
  • Difficulty sleeping

Rare side effects

A very small number of people have one or more of the following side effects

  • Bone thinning may occur with long term treatment
  • Changes in your heart rhythm – this effect is usually temporary and goes back to normal during or after treatment
  • Tiredness and breathlessness from a drop in red blood cells (anaemia)
  • Swelling of your legs due to fluid build up (known as peripheral oedema)
  • Food cravings
  • High calcium levels
  • An increase in appetite
  • Raised blood cholesterol
  • Feeling sick – tell your nurse if you have this
  • Tummy (abdominal) pain

Important points to remember

You may have a few of these side effects. They may be mild or more severe. A side effect may get worse through your course of treatment. Or you may have more side effects as the course goes on. This depends on

  • How many times you've had a drug before
  • Your general health
  • How much 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 that 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.

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.

Pregnancy and contraception

This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to father a child while you are having treatment with this drug and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


Related information

You might like to read our information about:

Prostate cancer

Hormone therapy for prostate cancer


More information about histrelin treatment

We don’t 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/emc.

If you have a side effect we don’t mention here and you think it 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: 24 February 2015