Hormones are substances in the body that function as chemical messengers. They influence the functions of cells and tissues in the body. Breast cancer hormone therapy, also referred to as endocrine therapy slows or inhibits the growth of hormone-sensitive tumors in the body.
To understand whether breast cancer cells have hormone receptors, experts test the samples of tumor tissues. About 80 percent of breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive, and most ER-positive breast cancers are progesterone receptor positive. Breast tumors containing estrogen and progesterone receptors are referred to as hormone receptor positive.
Different types of hormone therapies used in breast cancer treatment
Many a breast cancer hormone therapy exist in the modern day, and some of them include:
Blockage of ovarian cancer:
Since the ovaries are the primary source of estrogen in premenopausal women, the level of estrogen in such women can be brought down by suppressing or eliminating ovarian function. Blocking the function of the ovaries altogether is known as ovarian ablation. This can be achieved surgically where the ovaries are removed through treatment with proper radiation. The effect of ovarian ablation is also permanent. Ovarian function can also be suppressed for the time being with the administration of drugs known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists referred to as luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone.
Blockage of estrogen production:
Drugs known as aromatase inhibitors are used for blocking the activity of an enzyme known as aromatase. Aromatase inhibitors are mainly utilized in postmenopausal women as their ovaries produce excessive amounts of aromatase for the inhibitors for effective blocking.
Blockage of the effects of estrogen:
Various types of drugs interfere with the ability of estrogen for stimulating the growth of breast cancer. These include selective estrogen receptor modulators that prevent estrogen from binding and anti-estrogen medicines that target the destruction of the undesired hormones.
The best part of hormone therapies for breast cancer is that since most cancers are ER-positive, they can be prevented by hormone therapies as well. The side effects of breast cancer hormone therapy are entirely dependent on the specific drug used for the treatment, and therefore, the benefits and disadvantages must be precisely weighed on each woman considering specific individual conditions.