Breast Cancer Hormone Therapy
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Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer
Many types of breast cancer require the hormones estrogen or progesterone for growth. In these cases, hormone-blocking medications can be used to cut off the fuel supply for the breast cancer cells. For example, for estrogen receptor (ER) positive breast cancers, hormone therapy works to block the production of estrogen, or to prevent estrogen from reaching the tumor cells that need it to grow.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) breast cancer experts uses hormone therapy, a form of systemic therapy, to fight these forms of breast cancer.
Types of Hormone Therapy
Some common types of breast cancer hormone therapy include:
- SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators): These drugs bind to estrogen receptors in the breast cancer cells to block estrogen from reaching cancer cells, which prevents their growth. Tamoxifen is a commonly-used hormone therapy used to prevent breast cancer recurrence. This drug is also used for post-menopausal women at high risk for developing breast cancer.
- Aromatase Inhibitors: These breast cancer hormone therapy drugs block estrogen production by binding to the enzyme responsible for producing estrogen (the aromatase enzyme). Once estrogen production is halted, the cancer cells starve from lack of estrogen, which prevents them from growing and dividing.
Your Breast Cancer Therapy Treatment Choices
Your CTCA breast cancer team may use hormone therapy in combination with other breast cancer treatments. For example, prior to menopause, the ovaries are the main source of the body's estrogen (the hormone that makes some breast cancers grow). Thus, some women who have not gone through menopause may decide to have surgery to remove their ovaries.
At CTCA, we understand there are many factors that may influence your breast cancer treatment choices, such as your desire to have children. Your CTCA care team will listen to you and work as a team to develop a breast cancer treatment plan that seeks to meet your individual needs.
Addressing Side Effects of Breast Cancer Hormone Therapy
While undergoing hormone therapies for breast cancer, you may experience side effects such as: hot flashes; vaginal discharge, dryness and irritation; irregular periods; decreased sex drive; and mood changes. Aromatase inhibitors may also cause joint and muscle pain, as well as an increased risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis).
Throughout your breast cancer therapy, your CTCA care team will provide supportive care, including naturopathic medicine, nutrition therapy, mind-body medicine and spiritual support to help reduce side effects and improve your overall quality of life during breast cancer hormone therapy.
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