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What is Megestrol Acetate Prescribed for

Megestrol acetate is a progestational hormone that is prescribed exclusively for the treatment of two types of cancer: breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Also commonly known as Megace (of Bristol-Myers Squibb Company Princeton, New Jersey), megestrol acetate has been used quite successfully in the treatment of these two cancers.

It works by interfering with the action of particular female hormones in the body; specifically, it acts as a hormonal counterbalance in the breast and endometrium – two areas rich in estrogen.

While the breast is the most common site of cancer in women, the endometrium is the organ in the female reproductive system that is most frequently attacked by cancer. Widely and unfavorably known for being treacherous, breast cancer tends to spread early in its course to distant parts of the body. On the other hand, endometrial cancer exhibits abnormal vaginal bleeding, particularly after menopause.

The choice of treatment for both breast cancer and endometrial cancer depends, to a large extent, on two factors: whether the condition is in an early or advanced stage and the preferred form of treatment by the patient and her doctor. More importantly, the doctor will look into several considerations before making a decision as to whether megestrol acetate is the most appropriate form of treatment for each specific case.

Of course, surgery, irradiation therapy, and chemotherapy are still the most reliable and important forms of treatment for cancers. But for breast cancer and endometrial cancer, hormonal therapy – such as the use of megestrol acetate – can be an effective palliative treatment.

This prescription medication, however, should be used under the close and continued supervision of a doctor. Furthermore, this drug must not be used to treat cancers other than the two types specifically mentioned here.

There are a few, mild side effects of megestrol acetate, and these include nausea, fluid retention, and increased appetite. In some cases, the user of megestrol acetate may experience constipation, chest and abdominal pain, increased salivation, some skin disorders (example, jaundice), itching, cough, and sore throat. In very rare cases, there could be a rise in blood pressure.

The usual dose of megestrol acetate prescribed for patients of breast cancer and endometrial cancer is 40 to 320 milligrams per day. While megestrol acetate has no known serious side effects, it must be used with caution especially if the patient is under or has any of these three conditions: diabetes, a history of blood clots in the veins, and during pregnancy.


1. Oncology Tools, U.S. FDA, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research – http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cder/onctools/labels.cfm?GN=megestrol%20acetate

2. Cancerbackup/Macmillan – http://www.cancerbackup.org.uk/Treatments/Hormonaltherapies/Individualhormonaltherapies/Megestrolacetate