Hormone Therapy

What It Is

Some tumors count on female sex hormones to grow. These hormones are estrogen and progesterone.

Two-thirds of all breast cancer tumors are affected by estrogen. Of these tumors, over half are also affected by progesterone.

Hormone therapy is aimed cancer cells all around the body. This is unlike other treatments that focus on one specific spot. There are two types of hormone therapy:

  • Medication to change the way hormones work
  • Surgery to remove the ovaries, which make female hormones


What to Expect

Tumors affected by hormones often grow more slowly. Women with these types of tumors can expect better results. Treatment of these tumors can include:

  • Tamoxifen, one of the most commonly prescribed hormone treatments; it can kill these tumors by blocking their access to estrogen
  • Surgery to remove the ovaries
  • Other medication that prevents the ovaries estrogen production

Now that tamoxifen is available, treatments focusing on the ovaries are rarely used. In the future, surgery may be used with chemotherapy and tamoxifen to improve the result.


Possible Side Effects

Patients who use these drugs may have side effects (unintended results of a drug) such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness or discharge
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Rarely, blood clots, usually in the legs (deep venous thrombosis) and possibly in the lungs (pulmonary embolism)
  • Rarely, greater risk of a heart attack

Women who have gone through menopause may be at a greater risk of:


General Information

You may want to ask your doctor these questions about hormone therapy:

  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • If I need hormone therapy, which drugs are best for me?
  • What drugs will I be taking? What will they do?
  • Will I have side effects? What can I do about them?
  • How long will I be on this treatment?
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