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Medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera)

Medroxyprogesterone acetate is a type of hormonal therapy drug. It is also called Provera or Depo-Provera.

How it works

Hormones are natural substances made by glands in our bodies. They are carried around our body in our bloodstream and act as messengers between one part of our body and another. Hormones are responsible for many functions in our body, including the growth and activity of certain cells and organs. 

Some cancers use hormones to grow or develop. This means the cancer is hormone sensitive or hormone dependent.

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.

Why you have it

Medroxyprogesterone is a treatment for:

  • womb cancer 
  • kidney cancer (renal cancer)
  • breast cancer in post menopausal women

You might have it if your cancer has come back after treatment, or if it has spread to another part of the body.

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 you have it

You have medroxyprogesterone acetate as tablets.

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.

Taking your tablets or capsules

You must take tablets and capsules according to the instructions your doctor or pharmacist gives you.

Whether you have a full or empty stomach can affect how much of a drug gets into your bloodstream.

You should take the right dose, not more or less.

Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.

Tests

You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.

Side effects

We haven't listed all the side effects. It is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.

How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatment you are having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you are also having other drugs or radiotherapy.

When to contact your team

Your doctor or nurse will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:

  • you have severe side effects 
  • your side effects aren’t getting any better
  • your side effects are getting worse
Early treatment can help manage side effects better.

Common side effects

Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 10 people (10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

Increased appetite

Feeling hungrier can make it difficult to keep your weight down. Your appetite will go back to normal when you stop the treatment but some people need to diet to lose the extra weight.

Talk to your nurse or your dietitian about how to safely control your weight.

Feeling or being sick

Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques, can all help.

It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.

Breast pain

You can take a painkiller to help with this.

Tiredness and weakness (fatigue)

Tiredness and weakness (fatigue) can happen during and after treatment - doing gentle exercises each day can keep your energy up. Don't push yourself, rest when you start to feel tired and ask others for help.

Swelling (oedema)

You may have swelling of your hands and legs due to a build up of fluid (oedema). 

Weight gain

You might gain weight whilst using this drug. You may be able to control it with diet and exercise. Tell your doctor or nurse if you are finding it difficult to control your weight. 

Changes in blood sugar levels

You have regular blood and urine tests to check this. If you have diabetes you may need to check your blood sugar levels more often than usual. 

Headaches

Talk to your doctor or nurse if you keep having headaches. Painkillers might help with this. 

Occasional side effects

Each of these effects happens in more than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • mood changes
  • vaginal bleeding
  • periods stopping
  • skin rash
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • indigestion
  • dry mouth
  • allergic reaction
  • shaking hands
  • sweating
  • cramps
  • lowered interest in sex

Rare side effects

Each of these effects happens in fewer than 1 in 100 people (1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:

  • liver changes
  • blood clots
  • hair changes
  • nipple changes
  • confusion
  • anxiety
  • drowsiness
  • dizziness
  • heart changes

What else do I need to know?

Other medicines, foods and drinks 

Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.

Pregnancy and contraception

This treatment might harm a baby developing in the womb. It is important not to become pregnant or father a child while you're having treatment and for a few months afterwards. Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.

Breastfeeding

Don’t breastfeed during this treatment because the drug may come through into your breast milk.

Treatment for other conditions

Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.

More information about this treatment

For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.

You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.

Information and help