Hormone therapy is used to fight breast cancer by removing, blocking or even adding hormones to the body.  In breast cancer patients, hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can stimulate growth in cancer cells.  Doctors recommend hormone therapy to block the cancer’s growth by halting the naturally occurring hormones in the body.

Hormone therapy for cancer treatment should not be confused with hormone replacement therapy.  The two sound the same but are significantly different.  Hormone therapy works to fight against breast cancer, while hormone replacement therapy adds hormones to the system to counteract hormone loss, as in the case of menopause.

In a nutshell, hormone therapy works to:

  • stop the growth of cancer and prevent spread or slow cancer cell’s rate of growth
  • reduce the tumor size (if surgery is an option)
  • lower the development risk of cancer in unaffected breast tissue
  • prevent the recurrence of cancer once tumors have been removed

Common hormone therapy drugs and medicines

The most common drugs used to treat breast cancer work in direct relationship with hormone production and release.  These medicines include:

  • Tamoxifen
  • Femara
  • Megace
  • Fareston
  • Lupron

The hormone therapy drug Tamoxifen is one of the leaders of its kind in the treatment of breast cancer.  The drug has been a well-received cancer treating drug for over thirty years.  Tamoxifen is often given to stop the spread of metastatic breast cancer and inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the unaffected breast.

Since the estrogen hormones in the body can promote the growth and spread of breast cancer cells, Tamoxifen nullifies the growth by blocking the attachment of the hormone to its receptors.  The blockage actually stops the growth of cancer cells.

Other well known breast cancer treating drugs work to stop the production of estrogen in the body.  For example, Lupron is often given to premenopausal women to treat breast cancers that are estrogen sensitive.

Hormone therapy drugs are among the most successful treatments for combating breast cancer.  Thanks to growing awareness and support, research and improvements continue and the success rate is ever-increasing.

Choosing a doctor

The first and most important decision is to choose a doctor who is experienced in treating breast cancer with hormone therapy. Choosing the right doctor can mean the difference between life and death. There are many different treatments for this disease and each one carries a set risk of complications. Finding the right doctor who is specialized in hormone therapy can reduce these risks significantly. 

Choosing the best hospital also helps. Some of the best hospitals to receive treatment are MD Anderson, City of Hope, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Questions to ask your doctor about using hormone therapy to treat breast cancer

  • Will hormone therapy be effective for my stage of breast cancer?
  • Do women with breast cancer need hormone therapy?
  • Is hormone therapy the best treatment option?
  • What are the benefits and risks of hormone therapy?
  • What are the side effects of hormone therapy?
  • What kinds of risks should I be prepared to face if I do not take hormone therapy?