Adults with breast cancer, endometrial cancer, or AIDS may benefit from Megace. This prescription drug works by affecting certain hormones needed for cancer cells to grow, as well as stimulating appetite and causing weight gain. There are also some off-label (unapproved) uses for Megace, such as treating hot flashes in men with prostate cancer and malnutrition in people who do not have AIDS.
What Is Megace Used For?
Megace® (megestrol acetate) is a prescription hormone medication that belongs to a class of medicines known as progestins. Megace comes as a tablet and an oral suspension.
The oral suspension is approved to treat loss of appetite (known medically as anorexia), malnutrition, and significant weight loss in people with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The tablets are approved to treat people with advanced breast cancer or endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus).
The tablets have been discontinued by the manufacturer and are no longer available in the United States. However, generic Megace tablets are made by various manufacturers and are still available.
Using Megace for AIDS-Related Anorexia
AIDS is a disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). An HIV infection weakens the body's immune system by killing cells that normally fight disease. The main immune cell that HIV infects and kills is the T helper cell, also called the CD4+ T cell.
As the disease progresses, more and more CD4+ T cells are damaged by HIV. The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, when CD4+ T cell levels are severely reduced.
People with AIDS are at particular risk for opportunistic infections. These are infections that would usually not make a healthy person sick. People with AIDS are also particularly prone to developing various cancers, especially those caused by viruses, such as Kaposi's sarcoma and cervical cancer, or cancers of the immune system (known as lymphomas).
In addition, AIDS can cause severe anorexia, or an inability to eat; however, this is different from anorexia nervosa, the well-known eating disorder. Anorexia in this sense results in weight loss, muscle wasting, and malnutrition, which further increases the risk for opportunistic infections and death. Megace can help stimulate appetite in people with AIDS, which can help reverse weight loss.
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