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Treatment

 
Treatment

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.

Hormone Blockers
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
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.

Related Questions

  • Thumb avatar default

    Has anyone had BC return and did you take tamoxifen? I'm curious to find out how much of an impact these drugs can have on prevention of re-occurrence.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      I had DCIS in 20o3 a very early stage had bilateral subcutaneous mastectomies with reconstruction (they leave 1/4 of the subcutaneous tissue , nipple and Areola). DCIS was too small of tissue to test if it was estrogen positive. So did not take tamoxifen. In 2008 had a reoccurrence of DCIS along...

      more

      I had DCIS in 20o3 a very early stage had bilateral subcutaneous mastectomies with reconstruction (they leave 1/4 of the subcutaneous tissue , nipple and Areola). DCIS was too small of tissue to test if it was estrogen positive. So did not take tamoxifen. In 2008 had a reoccurrence of DCIS along the incision line surgeon went back completed the bilateral mastectomies and had negative lymph nodes. Was advised to start tamoxifen in 2008 since micro invasive cells were seen. Was on it for three years and have recently switched to arimidex as I'm menopausal. My aunt had a lumpectomy and radiation then 5 years of tamoxifen at her 10 year mark she had a reoccurrence of her breast cancer in the same breast. So with or without taking tamoxifen I've seen reoccurrences of breast cancer. It's just how the cards fall. Take care and may God bless

      1 comment
    • l h Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I had lumpectomy for invasive ductal carcinoma... tried tamoxifen but suffered blood clot side effect and also visual disturbances, so I stopped after a few months. Have been cancer-free since 2006.

      1 comment
  • Kim Wallis Profile

    I have been on Tamoxifen for about a month and have thrush for the last two weeks. It is not too bad at the moment but I feel it will get worse. Has anyone else experienced the same thing?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 8 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      Kim there is a medicine that you swish in your mouth daily for the thrush. As Debbie said give your doctor a call. Like anything the sooner your get treated the better you will feel better. Take care

      Comment
    • debbie schubert Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I had the same problem and I have to call the doctor tomorrow to get medication for it. Hope that it gets better for you. It was difficult for me because it felt like I couldn't speak. Let me know if it gets better for you.

      Comment
  • Lisa M Profile

    How long after chemo did it take to get your monthly friend? My last treatment was on Halloween and I haven't gotten my period yet. I recently started Tomaxifin so hoping it may begin to get things rolling?!?!

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2011
    about 8 years 7 answers
    • View all 7 answers
    • K G Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      I just had to send an update. I am 2days shy of being post chemo 5 months. My period has arrived! It is weird-very spotty-but I know it is my period! Give me hope for future children someday, where before I was in such limbo.

      Comment
    • Tiffani Warila Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      My last chemo treatment was november 5th and I have not got mine back either. I have just turned 30. I am 3 radiation treatments done, 31 to go and will be starting tamoxifen soon after radiation is done. I hope to get my period back so my body can get somewhat back to "normal".

      2 comments
  • Thumb avatar default

    I am on tamoxifen and keep having belly bloat is there anything I can do to prevent it?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 3 answers
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      I was on tamoxifen for three years I too had nausea when I first started taking it I ate a cracker after I would take it and that would help. This side effect soon past. I did have heart burn and severe stomach pains I was taking Prilosec and that seemed to make it worse. I stopped the Prilosec...

      more

      I was on tamoxifen for three years I too had nausea when I first started taking it I ate a cracker after I would take it and that would help. This side effect soon past. I did have heart burn and severe stomach pains I was taking Prilosec and that seemed to make it worse. I stopped the Prilosec and just took tums although Id have to take a few tums a day for the heart burn. Then I tried Pepcid complete like that much better once a day and I'm good. I did gain 20 pounds on tamoxifen no matter how much I exercised or watch my diet. I finally stabilized this last year. I've just been switched to arimedix as I'm now menopausal and the cycle begins again. But I remind myself it could be worse. Happy to be alive.

      Comment
    • Lisa W Profile
      anonymous
      Patient

      I'm curious too. I have 6 more taxol treatments before I start tamoxifen. I'm also curious as to what other side effects tamoxifen has.

      Comment

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