Sexual Health Q&A

What is androgen deprivation therapy (ADT)?

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is a type of hormone therapy used to treat prostate cancer.

Androgens are male sex hormones. They give men their masculine characteristics, such as facial hair, a deeper voice, and a muscular build. They’re also important for a man’s sexual function and the health of his prostate gland. Most androgens are produced in the testes. The two most common types are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Unfortunately, these hormones also contribute to the growth of prostate cancer cells, especially in the cancer’s early stages.

Androgen deprivation therapy aims to reduce or block the production of androgens in a man’s body. It can also be used to inhibit the way androgens work so that they are less likely to fuel prostate cancer cells.

ADT can be administered in several ways:

Surgical removal of the testes (orchiectomy). Since the testes make most androgens, removing them can significantly reduce androgen levels. According to the National Cancer Institute, orchiectomy reduces the amount of testosterone in the blood by 90% to 95%.

Medication. Certain drugs can prevent the production of androgens or keep androgens from working properly.