It is commonly known that men on Hormone Therapy (ADT) often experience many physical and psychological side effects from the treatment. Many of my posts have discussed the physical side effects, but I have not adequately explored the adverse psychological  side effects that many of us experience when we are on ADT!

Besides memory issues and the experience of sometimes being in a fog, depression in men receiving hormone therapy (ADT) is commonly reported. Despite how common depression seems to be, the relationship between ADT and depression is not fully understood.

In an attempt to begin to understand the relationship between depression and ADT researchers designed a longitudinal study to assess depressive symptomatology in men receiving ADT.  In particular, they were very interested in understanding the role support groups play in moderating feelings of depression.

Participants in this study were men who had a radical prostatectomy, were starting ADT and also participating in a support group (ADT+ surgery and  group support) and their matched controls (men diagnosed with prostate cancer, did not receive any treatment and did not participate in any support group).

Depressive symptomatology was assessed using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale when the ADT was first initiated and then again at the 6 month mark. The researchers examined the differences in depressive symptomatology and rates of clinically significant depressive symptomatology between these groups at each time point and within the groups over time.

They found that the rates of clinically significant depressive symptomatology were higher in the ADT+ surgery and support group than in both the ADT without support and the cancer diagnosis only group at both time points.

This finding leads to our asking if the depression is made worse for a man if he attends a support group, in other words does attending a support group encourage feelings of depression?  Despite this question, we also need to ask if the men who elected to attend support groups did so because they are initially feeling more depression or if their choice to attend  is predetermined because they are men who are already more in touch with their personal feelings.

This is a very small study, so its findings do need to be taken with a grain of salt, however the findings do need to be considered if you are deciding whether to attend a support group if you are on ADT.

In addition, we should also heed the finding that supports the general hypothesis that men diagnosed with cancer and possibly those receiving ADT are subject to increases in depression levels. The mechanism behind receiving a cancer diagnosis and ADT’s association with depression needs to be explored and prostate cancer survivors, especially those men who are being treated with ADT, should receive particular focus in depression screening and intervention.

Psychooncology. 2014 Jun 13. doi: 10.1002/pon.3608; Lee M, Jim HS, Fishman M, Zachariah B, Heysek R, Biagioli M, Jacobsen PB.

PMID: 24924331