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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

    Anyone taking the Lupron shots? Tamoxifen made me super sick so my doctor recommends Lupron shots once a month? Help I'm so confused

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    about 8 years 2 answers
    • Lisa S Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      I just had my first Lupron shot about two weeks ago and so far so good. I have been a bit itchy but I'm not sure if it's from that or just allergies. Let me know how you react. My understanding is that it shuts your ovaries down to stop the estrogen. I thought I'd have hot flashes like when I was...

      more

      I just had my first Lupron shot about two weeks ago and so far so good. I have been a bit itchy but I'm not sure if it's from that or just allergies. Let me know how you react. My understanding is that it shuts your ovaries down to stop the estrogen. I thought I'd have hot flashes like when I was on tamoxifen but that hasn't been the case. Good luck.

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      Thanks just got my shot today - was not pleasant. Had extreme cramping and pain in my ovaries. Dr said it was from the tamoxifen but I think it was the shot. I find out more in 3 weeks at my next appt. may have to have ovaries removed:( I just don't want to deal with this anymore. I am only 32...

      more

      Thanks just got my shot today - was not pleasant. Had extreme cramping and pain in my ovaries. Dr said it was from the tamoxifen but I think it was the shot. I find out more in 3 weeks at my next appt. may have to have ovaries removed:( I just don't want to deal with this anymore. I am only 32 years old.

      3 comments
  • Thumb avatar default

    Is chest tightness a side effect of Tomaxifen?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 3 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      This is a question to ask your oncologist or his office. They can tell you if this is something to be concerned about and give you some peace of mind. We are taking some very powerful drugs which can have all sorts of side effects. Some of them we just have to live with and some need to be...

      more

      This is a question to ask your oncologist or his office. They can tell you if this is something to be concerned about and give you some peace of mind. We are taking some very powerful drugs which can have all sorts of side effects. Some of them we just have to live with and some need to be addressed. This is best done by chatting with your oncologist's office. Take care, Sharon

      Comment
    • janet levy Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since

      I agree with Sharon. I had some side effects with Arimidex and was just switched to Tamoxifen. Keep your oncologist apprised of any issues you have. Good luck and feel better.

      Comment
  • Thumb avatar default

    I was on tamoxifen for five years. My first three cycles were CRAZY HEAVY but doc told me that was normal. However, this month I didn't get it. Has anyone experienced this?

    Asked by anonymous

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

      How old are you? Tamoxifen has the effect as when someone is on BCP'S and they have light periods while on the BCP'S once they stop their periods are full blown with cramps. All of a Sudden you get a surge of hormones. If you are in the peri- menopause phase of your life then the irregular...

      more

      How old are you? Tamoxifen has the effect as when someone is on BCP'S and they have light periods while on the BCP'S once they stop their periods are full blown with cramps. All of a Sudden you get a surge of hormones. If you are in the peri- menopause phase of your life then the irregular period maybe just a normal cycle at this time. Talk to your gyn and let them know what is happening with your cycle they can do hormone blood levels and endometrial biopsies to make sure nothing else is going on. Peace of mind is a wonderful thing. Take care and congratulations on completing 5 years of tamoxifen.

      1 comment
    • Elaine Mills Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 2B Patient

      Not from personal experience, but I do know that tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker, so it stops your body from absorbing estrogen - our female hormone. It makes perfect sense that you didn't have a cycle this time. I am on a similar med called Femara. I don't have a uterus anymore though, so...

      more

      Not from personal experience, but I do know that tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker, so it stops your body from absorbing estrogen - our female hormone. It makes perfect sense that you didn't have a cycle this time. I am on a similar med called Femara. I don't have a uterus anymore though, so ... all I got to do is experience the hot flashes from this type of treatment.

      Comment
  • Lydia Bujanda Profile

    Has anyone had herceptin, without any other form of chemo? My onco has given that and Tamoxifen as an option........................

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 1 answer
    • celien thorne Profile
      anonymous
      Patient

      I started Herceptin first ,my dr wanted to ease me into getting something till I was ready for chemo I think I had 4 or 6 cycles of it then started the 4 rounds of chemo " just finished Chemo June 28th , thankgoodness"...I'm actually getting Herceptin now as I type this .. I guess research diff...

      more

      I started Herceptin first ,my dr wanted to ease me into getting something till I was ready for chemo I think I had 4 or 6 cycles of it then started the 4 rounds of chemo " just finished Chemo June 28th , thankgoodness"...I'm actually getting Herceptin now as I type this .. I guess research diff studies of Herceptin alone but usually it' is given with chemo , my Dr said : imagine Chemo like a Big weed killer and the Herceptin as a small weed killer .. Attacking the cancer cells .. That kinda helped me understand it a bit better ..

      1 comment

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