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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

  • Elizabeth Castro Profile

    Is there any link between tamoxifen, liver disease, cancer or causing a fatty liver?

    Asked by anonymous

    Survivor since 2012
    over 7 years 2 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Elizabeth,
      SInce you posed the question, I went to my friend Mr. Google and read some of the replies. It seems long term Tamoxifen use can possibly cause liver enzymes to change. It is not a --for sure-- side effect. Your doctor is going to monitor by having blood chem panels run fairly...

      more

      Elizabeth,
      SInce you posed the question, I went to my friend Mr. Google and read some of the replies. It seems long term Tamoxifen use can possibly cause liver enzymes to change. It is not a --for sure-- side effect. Your doctor is going to monitor by having blood chem panels run fairly frequently. It is one of those double-edged swords. It is not thought of to cause liver cancer. I think of the side effects of chemotherapy.... and you don't even want to know about those! Take care, Sharon

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      Fatty liver is the hallmark of Americans. I had a biopsy at 50 and was found with a fatty liver. Ate healthy, exercised and was trim. Still had it. I'm convinced the human body can operate on a minimum of food. Don't let any of that worry you. Make healthy choices and fight the nasty cancer....

      more

      Fatty liver is the hallmark of Americans. I had a biopsy at 50 and was found with a fatty liver. Ate healthy, exercised and was trim. Still had it. I'm convinced the human body can operate on a minimum of food. Don't let any of that worry you. Make healthy choices and fight the nasty cancer. Think good thoughts.

      Comment
  • Danielle Moore Profile

    Just started Tamoxifen and feel pretty crappy. Any ideas to combat side effects? Does it get better?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 8 years 1 answer
    • Anne Marie jacintho Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2003

      Hang in there it does get better I've been on tamoxifen for 3years. Hot flashes, joint and bone pain, total exhaustion peeks between 6-8 months then things taper out and are tolerable. Be prepared for weight gain also. That part lingers. Take care and remember there iSight at the end of the tunnel

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    Has this happened to anybody else? I'm so stressed because chemo really messed up my liver. My levels are high and I can't start my Tamoxifen until levels go down. I already changed my diet to fruit vegetables and it didn't help. :(

    Asked by anonymous

    Stage 3B Patient
    over 7 years 2 answers
    • Patricia Stoop Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Chemo messed up my heart and had to take a break until it was better. Pretty scary time but it passed. Meditation was key for me. And visualization of my heart beating strong and healthy....substitute liver. ... Also some foods are detoxifying - parsley, cilantro, basil I think....

      Comment
    • Marianne R. Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      The scariest phrase in our world " just wait." BUT it is what we have to do sometimes for our over taxed body catch up to and heal from the treatment that is our saving our lives. My liver is still a little high but is better than it was. Tamoxifen is a little hard on the liver too. I think Yoga...

      more

      The scariest phrase in our world " just wait." BUT it is what we have to do sometimes for our over taxed body catch up to and heal from the treatment that is our saving our lives. My liver is still a little high but is better than it was. Tamoxifen is a little hard on the liver too. I think Yoga did me the most good. Faith and exercise is what is bring me back to a healthy place.

      2 comments
  • Thumb avatar default

    Anyone having lower back pain while on tamoxifen?

    Asked by anonymous

    Stage 1 Patient
    over 8 years 9 answers
    • View all 9 answers
    • R. SUTHERLAND Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 3A Patient

      Yes!!

      Comment
    • Sandra Dakin Profile
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Yes. I am having an MRI next week to rule out disk issues. My Onco however did not think there was a correlation.

      1 comment

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