Hormone therapy for breast cancer
Two common types of breast cancer hormone therapy are:
- Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs): 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.
We understand there are many factors that can influence your breast cancer treatment choices, such as your desire to have children. We will listen to you and work as a team to develop a breast cancer treatment plan to meet your individual needs.
We 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). Some women who have gone through menopause may decide to have surgery to remove their ovaries.
What is hormone therapy?
Hormone therapy is a form of systemic therapy that works to add, block or remove hormones from the body to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), we use hormone therapy to fight various forms of cancer alongside Integrative Oncology Services to combat side effects.
Hormones are known as the body’s chemical messengers and are produced in the endocrine glands, which include glands such as the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries in women and testicles in men. Hormones can encourage the growth of some cancers, such as breast and prostate. But, in some cases, they can kill, slow or stop cancer cells from growing.
Hormone therapy usually involves taking medications that prevent cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow. In some cases, your doctor may surgically remove the gland responsible for hormone production. Our physicians may use hormone therapy in combination with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Experienced care team
Our clinicians work in concert to provide you with all possible treatment options. Your care team would consider hormone therapy as a treatment option if you are diagnosed with prostate, breast, ovarian or thyroid cancers. Several factors influence the type of hormone therapy you may receive, including your age, the type and size of the tumor, and the presence of hormone receptors on the tumor.
Personalized treatment approach
Patients are at the center of treatment decisions at CTCA. We understand there are many factors that may influence the treatment option you choose, such as your desire to have children. We will listen to you and work as a team to develop a treatment plan that seeks to meet your individual needs.
Managing side effects
Some hormone therapies can cause a range of side effects, depending on the type of cancer involved. For example, breast cancer patients may experience hot flashes; vaginal discharge, dryness and irritation; decreased sex drive; and mood changes. Prostate cancer patients may experience reduced ability to achieve an erection or orgasm. Aromatase inhibitors also may cause joint and muscle pain, and an increased risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis).
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 treatment, we will provide supportive care services to help combat these side effects. Naturopathic medicine, nutrition therapy, mind-body medicine and spiritual support can help reduce side effects, as well as improve your overall quality of life.