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Low Testosterone (low-T) as a side effect of Chemotherapy-

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“Prevalence of hypogonadism (low testosterone) in men with cancer (chemotherapy) has been reported between 40% and 90%, which is significantly higher than in the general population.”

I beat leukemia 12 years ago.  I’ve had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis for 15 years (diagnosed that long, perhaps a bit longer). I had very low testosterone (hypogonadism) as a side-effect of my chemotherapy which I treated by a patch and have since stopped that patch fearing side effects.

The side effects I always feared were ones that might not exist.  I was under the belief that testosterone replacement brought greater risk of cancer and heart disease.

I will tell you, the reason that I found your site was the effects that I am feeling as a result of being hypothyroid and extremely low-T for so long.   I was diagnosed with hypogonadism following the treatment.

My cancer treatment involved chemotherapy only and the effects on my body were drastic.  Even as I type this I realize that my cognitive abilities aren’t what they were pre-cancer.

Today I feel that the side effects of low-T’ are worse than just about anything else I could face.   Getting ready to call my doctor to get my prescription for patches back.  Low testosterone is a horrible thing.

I’m very happy to be a cancer survivor, but I’m a shell of myself.  12 plus years and I’m running out of gas.
I’m going to talk to the doctor again about starting testosterone therapy.  My fears of what might happen have created a new reality that is just as unpleasant.

I don’t find a great deal of information or people willing to talk about the effects of cancer treatments and low testosterone. Tom

Hi Tom-

Thanks for reaching out. Congratulations on beating cancer. I am sorry to read of your low-T side effect.

I think you and I experience a long-term side effect of chemotherapy that is dismissed by conventional oncology.

One study linked below claims that low-T results in 15% of cancer survivors while the other study linked below documents the occurrence of low-T in cancer survivors ranging from 40% – 90%. Not only do the two studies differ radically in their estimate of low-t as a long-term side effect of chemotherapy but the one study gives such a wide range (40-90%), I have to wonder why the study bothers with a range at all.

Why don’t the study authors simply say that all male cancer survivors suffer from hypogonadism (low-T) and leave it at that???

I think it is probable that some of the problems caused by your low-T such are:

  • cognitive disfunction aka chemobrain
  • fatigue
  • weight gain
  • heart failure

and others. I have experienced all of those problems as well as several others.

The solution? At least in part will be testosterone supplementation. I administered a testosterone creme from a compounding pharmacy for a couple of years after my autologous stem cell transplant (high-dose chemotherapy).

In addition, I supplement with DHEA and have for years. I exercise daily, eat nutritiously and supplement with a variety of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants. I think these therapies help my low-T but I can be sure.

Have you been diagnosed with hypogonadism aka low-T? What are your symptoms? Have you undergone chemotherapy? Scroll down the page, post a question or comment and I will reply to you ASAP.

hang in there,

David Emerson

  • Multiple Myeloma Survivor
  • MM Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

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Hypogonadism means diminished functional activity of the gonads—the testes or the ovaries—that may result in diminished production of sex hormones.

Low androgen (e.g., testosterone) levels are referred to as hypoandrogenism and low estrogen (e.g., estradiol) as hypoestrogenism. These are responsible for the observed signs and symptoms. Hypogonadism can decrease other hormones secreted by the gonads including progesterone, DHEA, anti-Müllerian hormone, activin, and inhibin. Sperm development (spermatogenesis) and release of the egg from the ovaries (ovulation) may be impaired by hypogonadism, which, depending on the degree of severity, may result in partial or complete difficulty or inability to have children…”

Testosterone deficiency affects male cancer survivors’ quality of life

“A new study has found that many male cancer survivors who develop testosterone deficiency after receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy have an impaired quality of life and reduced energy levels…

Testosterone deficiency is a late side effect of radiation therapy and chemotherapy that occurs in approximately 15 percent of male cancer survivors...

Professor Ross commented: “This is an important study demonstrating that low testosterone levels are common in male cancer survivors and associated with an impaired quality of life…”

Sex and chemotherapy for men

Some men lead normal sex lives during treatment. Others find that their sex lives change, but go back to normal afterwards.

How chemotherapy affects men-

You might feel tired or sick as a result of chemotherapy. These changes may make you feel less interested in sex for a while.

More rarely, chemotherapy can make a man’s testosterone levels drop. Testosterone is the male sex hormone. Chemotherapy can also affect the nerves that control erections.

So some men find that while they’re having treatment, they lose interest in sex. Or they have trouble getting and keeping an erection.

These changes are usually temporary and don’t last more than a couple of weeks after the treatment has finished.

The emotional effects of having cancer can also affect your sex life. Some men feel differently about themselves. You may worry about your ability to have sex, or about your ability to father children (fertility). These worries can also lower your desire and your ability to have an erection.

High dose treatment

Higher doses of chemotherapy are more likely to affect your sex life. You may have high dose chemotherapy with a stem cell or bone marrow transplant.

Many people having this treatment have radiotherapy as well. This combination is more likely to make you lose your sex drive or have erection problems.

This may happen during treatment and for a while afterwards. Research shows that high dose treatment reduces some men’s testosterone levels for a while…”

Hypogonadism in male cancer patients

“Prevalence of hypogonadism in men with cancer has been reported between 40% and 90%, which is significantly higher than in the general population.

Hypogonadism is likely to affect the quality of life in these patients by contributing to non-specific symptoms, including decreased energy, anorexia, sarcopenia, weight loss, depression, insomnia, fatigue, weakness, and sexual dysfunction. Pathogenesis of hypogonadism in cancer patients is thought to be multi-factorial. Inflammation may play an important role, but leptin, opioids, ghrelin, and high-dose chemotherapy through different mechanisms have all been implicated as the cause. Hypogonadism is also associated with poor survival in cancer patients. Data looking into the treatment of hypogonadal male cancer patients with testosterone are limited. However, improvements in body weight, muscle strength, lean body mass, and quality of life have been shown in hypogonadal men with other chronic diseases on testosterone replacement therapy.


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