Chapter: 6 - Treatment
Subchapter: 9 - Hormone Therapy
Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are chemicals produced by glands in the body. In our simplified illustration, we are using circles for estrogen and squares for progesterone. Normally, these hormones help regulate body cycles like menstruation. However, as we discussed in Subchapter 3.1 “Growth of Cancer,” sometimes these same hormones can cause cancer to grow.
The pathologist will perform tests on the cancer cells to determine if they have receptors that feed on estrogen or progesterone, stimulating their growth. If the cancer cells have these receptors, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy drugs, such as blockers or inhibitors. Both types of drugs help to destroy cancer cells by cutting off their supply of hormones.
The most common hormone therapy drug is Tamoxifen. It blocks the estrogen-shaped openings in the cells, preventing estrogen-fueled cancers from growing.
Tamoxifen can be taken as a pill on a daily basis, up to five years after surgery.
Hormone inhibitors also target cancer cells with hormone receptors, but unlike hormone blockers, they work by reducing the body’s hormone production. When cancer cells are cut off from the ‘food supply’ (in this case, estrogen) the tumor begins to starve and die.
However, hormone inhibitors are only used in postmenopausal women.
Generally, the benefits of using hormone therapy and chemotherapy together have a much greater combined effect than using either alone. If your cancer is positive for hormone receptors, your doctor may recommend both therapies.
Asked by anonymousSurvivor since 2013
Asked by anonymousLearning About Breast Cancer
I know about the test. I take tamoxifen because I don't want cancer back. I trust my Doctors and he would not give me any drugs that don't inhance my long tem survival. He wants me cancer free as much as I do.1 comment 3
My Dr doesn't believe in test. Said it is not reliable.2 comments 2
Asked by anonymousSurvivor since 2004
No just hot flashes, dr took me off of it after two months and put me on Arimidex and the hot flashes have calmed down a lot but I sweat all the blasted time. Ugh.Comment 0
Hot flashes and insomnia. The only time I get anxiety is when MRI or PET scan are mentioned.Comment 0
Asked by anonymousSurvivor since 2010
It is common as I wrote before, but it is crucial that you advise your oncologist. The drug has a slight risk for blood clots. Leg cramps are a common side effect with this drug, but if your pain is greater than that of a cramp or you feel chest pain, you need to advise your oncologist immediately.Comment 2
This is a common for women.Comment 0
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