Rhode Island Hospital
Providence, RI 02903
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The Miriam Hospital
164 Summit Avenue
Providence, RI 02906
Hormone therapy is most often associated with menopause. However, hormone therapy can also be used to treat breast cancer.
Estrogen increases the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells. Hormone therapy works by administering medicines (usually in pill form) that block estrogen before it can reach cancer cells. In order for this treatment to work, the cancer has to be sensitive to hormones. To determine this, the breast tissue is tested to see if it is estrogen-receptor positive or estrogen-receptor negative. If positive, the cancer is likely to respond to hormone therapy.
For women who test estrogen-receptor positive, hormone therapy is used to reduce the chances of recurrence or to control and shrink cancer that has metastasized. Hormone therapy can be used to treat breast cancer in three ways:
To block hormones from attaching to estrogen receptor on cancer cells.
To stop the body from producing estrogen after menopause.
To stop hormone production completely in the ovaries, through medications or surgery.
The typical length of treatment for hormone therapy is five years. During this time, it's important for you to have yearly pelvic exams and let your doctor know if you experience and unusual bleeding or pain.
Yes, there are side effects associated with hormone therapy, many of which are also common with menopause. Side effects vary by specific medication and person, and can include: