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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 problems with tamoxifen? I am extremely nauseous and very tired! 5 more years of this?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 6 years 2 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I would always check in with your oncologist when you are having side effects that are impacting your life as it is with you. I have heard several of the women on this site having similar side effects. Sometimes these can get better over time but it is best to check.
      Good luck to you, Sharon

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I was feeling sick for about a week or so but that went away. I take my tamoxifen with my breakfast, try taking it with food, it might help. After 3 months I still get a bit tired during the day. All the other side effects seem to have subsided so try and stick it out it will get better. This...

      more

      I was feeling sick for about a week or so but that went away. I take my tamoxifen with my breakfast, try taking it with food, it might help. After 3 months I still get a bit tired during the day. All the other side effects seem to have subsided so try and stick it out it will get better. This drug is keeping people like us alive and we are lucky to have it. Good luck.

      Comment
  • Lori S Profile

    Anyone know the timeframe for starting tamoxifen as an adjuvant therapy following chemo and radiation?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 6 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Stage 3B Patient

      I finished chemo and 1/2 way done with radiation I'm supposed to start tamoxifen as soon as I'm done with radiation.

      Comment
    • Jk Joyce Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      I started tamoxifen a week ago and I finished my radiation in May. I had second degree burns from the rad. And he wouldn't let me start it until I healed more. The outside has healed but the inside is still so sore and painful. They say it may take a year for that to get better. I think the...

      more

      I started tamoxifen a week ago and I finished my radiation in May. I had second degree burns from the rad. And he wouldn't let me start it until I healed more. The outside has healed but the inside is still so sore and painful. They say it may take a year for that to get better. I think the Tamox. Has irritated it because I have been sorer since I started it.

      Comment
  • Mandana K. Profile

    Anybody who takes Tamoxifen . Did your Dr tell you about or perform any tests to evaluate CYP2D6 enzyme activity or its genetic polymorphism? ( CYP2D6 is the enzyme converting Tamoxifen to its active metabolite )

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 4 years 5 answers
    • View all 5 answers
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning 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
    • Karen G Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 2A Patient

      My Dr doesn't believe in test. Said it is not reliable.

      2 comments
  • nicole blagburn Profile

    1 month into Tamoxifen. Last few days I'm having bad hot flashes and very nauseous all day. I don't want to take them anymore! Will this get easier?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 5 years 4 answers
    • View all 4 answers
    • Jk Joyce Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      I have been on it for 5 weeks and the hot flashes continue but I have not been nauseous in about a week now so hoping that is over. I hope and pray it gets better for us both....excuse me while I go take another shower...ugh!

      Comment
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      Yes it will get easier the first couple month is the worst your body is trying to adjust like being pregnant when the hormones are out of whack Tamoxifen peeks between 6-8 months then I found things started to settle down hot flashes less intense mood swings better. I would get a wave like...

      more

      Yes it will get easier the first couple month is the worst your body is trying to adjust like being pregnant when the hormones are out of whack Tamoxifen peeks between 6-8 months then I found things started to settle down hot flashes less intense mood swings better. I would get a wave like feeling of being overwhelmed totally exhausted nauseous and wanting to cry then the dripping wet hot flashes. After a while I realized if I just calmed myself down it's just the dam pill and those hormones take a deep breath and let it pass. I felt much better. I'd actually tell myself

      1 comment

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