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Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer Treatment

One treatment for breast cancer is hormone therapy. Therapy that affects the performance of the endocrine system, is used primarily to inhibit cancer cell growth influenced by hormone levels.

In addition to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, treatment of breast cancer can also be done through hormone therapy. This treatment is done by regulating the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, so that the risk of breast cancer can be controlled.

Benefits of hormone therapy for breast cancer

In general, the benefits of hormone therapy for breast cancer are:

  • Inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
  • Reducing the risk of spreading cancer cells to other tissues.
  • Reducing the size of the tumor in the breast before surgery.

In addition, the provision of hormone therapy is also expected to reduce the likelihood of someone experiencing breast cancer again after treatment.

It's important to know that not everyone is suitable for hormone therapy. This therapy is more suitable for patients with breast cancer conditions with types of cancer cells that have positive hormone receptors. Both estrogen and progesterone hormones can both stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.

Most breast cancer sufferers have estrogen positive receptor cancer cells, which are referred to as positive ER (estrogen receptor-positive). While breast cancer that responds to changes in the levels of the hormone progesterone is called positive PR (progesterone receptor-positive). In some cases, a breast cancer sufferer can have both receptors.

The type of hormone therapy given will be adjusted to the type of cancer suffered, the stage of cancer, and the physical condition of the patient in general.

Types of Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer

There are at least two types of hormone therapy that are usually used in the treatment of breast cancer. The first type of hormone therapy in the form of a drug that makes the hormones estrogen and progesterone stop helping the growth of breast cancer cells, including:

1. Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs)

SERMs are treatments that prevent breast cancer cells from absorbing estrogen. The most commonly used drug SERMs include:

  • Tamoxifen, works by stopping the hormone estrogen that binds to cells. The goal, so that the cancer does not grow and divide. According to research, taking tamoxifen for 5 to 10 years can prolong life. Breast cancer also tends not to recur.
  • Toremifene, recommended for patients who have taken Tamoxifen but the results are not satisfactory. This type of drug is only approved for treating breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
  • Fulvestrant, usually used to treat advanced breast cancer.

2. Aromatase inhibitors (Als)

This drug is used to prevent fat tissue from producing estrogen but does not prevent estrogen production from the ovary. So that AIs are considered only effective for postmenopausal women.

Then the second, the type of hormone therapy in the form of drugs or surgery to stop the production of hormones from the ovary, for example:

  • Luteinizing hormone-releasing hormones (LHRH)

This drug is given to stop the production of estrogen from the ovary. Menstruation will stop during this treatment.

  • Ovarian ablation

This type of hormone therapy can be an option for women who have not experienced menopause. Ovarian ablation is done by lifting or closing the ovary so that estrogen production stops.

How hormone therapy works

Most of the estrogen in a woman's body is made by the ovary. After menopause, smaller amounts are still made in body fat tissue, where hormones made by the adrenal gland are converted to estrogen.

Estrogen makes receptor breast cancer positive for growth hormones. About 2 of the 3 types of positive hormone receptor breast cancer contain estrogen hormone receptors (ER-positive cancer) and / or progesterone (PR-positive cancer). So, reducing the amount of estrogen or blocking its work can reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer in the early stages after surgery. Hormonal therapy drugs can also be used to help reduce or slow down the growth of advanced or positive hormone receptor breast cancer metastases. This type of treatment is beneficial for receptor-positive breast cancer hormones, but it does not help tumor patients with negative hormone receptors (both ER- and PR-negative).

Hormone therapy prevents cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow and slow or stop the growth of positive hormone receptor tumors. This is done in several ways.

Some hormone therapies, such as the tamoxifen drug, attach to receptors in cancer cells and block estrogen from sticking to receptors. Other therapies, such as aromatase inhibitors, reduce the level of estrogen in the body so that cancer cells cannot get the estrogen they need to grow.

Side effects of hormone therapy

Side effects of hormone therapy depend on certain drugs or types of treatment. Your doctor will consider the benefits and risks of using hormone therapy and choose the best treatment for you.

Heat, night sweats, and vaginal dryness are common side effects of hormone therapy. Hormone therapy also interferes with the menstrual cycle in premenopausal women.

It is rare but a serious side effect of hormone therapy drugs might include:


  • Risk of blood clots, especially in the lungs and legs
  • Stroke
  • Cataract
  • Endometrium and uterine cancer
  • Bone loss in premenopausal women
  • Mood changes, depression, and loss of libido
  • In men: headache, nausea, vomiting, skin rash, impotence, and decreased sexual interest


  • Risk of blood clots, especially in the lungs and legs
  • Stroke in certain subgroups

Ovarian suppression

  • Bone loss
  • Mood changes, depression, and loss of libido

Aromatase inhibitors

  • Risk of heart attack, angina, heart failure, and hypercholesterolemia
  • Bone loss
  • Joint pain
  • Changes in mood and depression

Readalso : Keeping Joints Healthy To Be Free To Move


  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Losing power
  • Pain

The general change strategy, in which patients use tamoxifen for 2 or 3 years, followed by aromatase inhibitors for 2 or 3 years, can produce a balance between the benefits and harms of both types of hormone therapy.

Under certain conditions, both types of hormone therapy can be combined. It should be noted, so that effective therapy must affect hormone levels in the body, so that it can affect the menstrual cycle. Especially for those who get treatment to stop hormone production, will experience menopause.

Therefore, before hormone therapy for breast cancer, discuss in depth with your doctor. Make sure you really understand how hormone therapy works and the effects it might cause. So that this treatment can run effectively and efficiently.



1. Martin, L. Web MD (2017). Breast Cancer and Hormone Therapy.

2. American Cancer Society (2017). Breast Cancer Hormone Receptor Status.

3. Mayo Clinic (2018). Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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