Medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera) | Cancer Research UK
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Medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera)

This page tells you about medroxyprogesterone acetate and its possible side effects. There is information about


What medroxyprogesterone acetate is

Medroxyprogesterone (pronounced meh-drox-ee-pro-jes-ta-row-n) is a type of hormone treatment. It is also called Provera or Depo-Provera. It is a man made version of the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is a type of female sex hormone but men also produce a small amount of it.

Medroxyprogesterone is a treatment for the following cancers which have come back after treatment or have spread from where they started.

  • Womb cancer
  • Kidney cancer (renal cancer)
  • Breast cancer in post menopausal women

Medroxyprogesterone is also a treatment for poor appetite. Your doctor may suggest that you take it if you are losing weight because it can help to boost your appetite.

Doctors also sometimes suggest it as a treatment for women who have hot flushes due to some cancer treatments. It can also help men who have hot flushes due to hormone therapy for prostate cancer treatment.


How medroxyprogesterone works

Medroxyprogesterone may work by interfering with the hormone balance in the body so that there are smaller amounts of the hormones that some cancers depend on to grow. It may also interact with other hormones or have a direct effect on the cancer to stop it growing.


How you have medroxyprogesterone

You have medroxyprogesterone as tablets, usually once a day. You need to swallow each tablet whole with a drink of water. Take them at the same time each day. Sometimes people have the dose divided up to take a couple of times a day.

If you forget to take a dose, take the next dose at the usual time. Don't take a double dose to make up for the missed dose.

If you accidentally take too many tablets, tell your doctor or nurse straight away.

It is very important that you take tablets according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gave you. You should take the right dose, not more or less. And never stop taking a cancer drug without talking to your specialist first.

The side effects associated with medroxyprogesterone are listed below. You can click on the underlined links for information about coping with the effects. Where there is no link you can find information in our cancer drugs side effects section or use the search box at the top of the page.


Common side effects

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

  • An increased appetite
  • Feeling and being sick, especially when you first start taking it
  • Breast tenderness and pain
  • Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)
  • Fluid build up causing ankle and finger swelling or a puffy face
  • Weight gain from increased appetite and food intake  – watching what you eat and exercising regularly can help to control your weight
  • Changes in blood sugar if you have diabetes – you may have to adjust your dose of tablets or insulin

Occasional side effects

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

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Mood changes
  • Headaches
  • Vaginal bleeding, which is not part of your period (spotting), or your periods may stop
  • Skin rashes, which may be itchy
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Indigestion
  • A dry mouth
  • A mild effect on the liver – you are unlikely to notice any symptoms. Your liver function will almost certainly go back to normal when treatment ends. You will have regular blood tests to check how well your liver is working
  • An allergic reaction – let your doctor or nurse know straight away if you have signs of a reaction. The signs include feeling faint, sudden difficulty breathing, intense itching, or swelling of the lips, face or throat
  • Shaking hands (tremors)
  • Sweating
  • Cramps in the back of the lower legs at night
  • A low sex drive

Rare side effects

Fewer than 1 in 100 people have these.

  • Blood clots – contact your doctor or nurse straight away if you suddenly become breathless or have chest pain. Also let them know if you have tenderness or swelling in your leg, or if your leg feels hot and becomes red
  • Hair thinning or increased hair growth on the face
  • Leaking milk from the nipples
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Heart changes, which are usually temporary but for a small number of people may be permanent. Your doctor will check your heart before and after your treatment. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have palpitations (a feeling of your heart beating very fast)

Important points 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.

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 become pregnant or father a child while you are having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.


The drug may come through in the breast milk so don't breastfeed during this treatment or for 2 months after the last dose.


More information about medroxyprogesterone

This page 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

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

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Updated: 25 February 2015