Hormonal therapy is effective only on hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. These medicines are able to treat the cancers with the help of a two way approach. The first is by reducing the levels of estrogen hormone in the body and secondly by interfering with or blocking of estrogen action on the cancer cells.
Ovaries in women’s body are responsible producing most of the estrogen. This estrogen helps in growth stimulation of cancer in hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. Thus interfering the amount of estrogen available in the body can result in recurrence risk reduction of the early-stage hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers post surgery. Hormonal therapy medicines are also effective in advanced-stage or metastatic hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers by aiding in their shrinking or slow growth of cancerous tissue.
It is obvious that hormonal therapy medicines do not work against hormone-receptor-negative breast cancers.
As a preventive course for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in some cases, there may be surgical removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes especially for high risk women, also in certain cases a temporary shutdown of the ovaries may be done using medication.
It is essential that patient understands that there is a difference between hormonal therapy and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
HRT is used in treatment of menopausal side effects which are quite troublesome. Side effects like swings in moods and hot flashes. Post menopause, there is a reduction in estrogen levels of the body, HRT raises these levels. Thus therapy is a combination of estrogen and can contain progesterone and other hormones. It should be notes that it is actually the opposite of hormone therapy and is not used to treat breast cancer.
Breast cancer is different in different women. For some patients exit from hospital is the end of breast treatment but for some it continues in the form of hormone therapy. Women discharged from home have been known to be on hormone therapy for breast cancer for as long as five years.
This therapy is only advised if on testing the breast cancer is known to be hormone receptor positive. Such cancerous cells have on its surface receptors which positively react to female hormone estrogen, stimulating cell growth. In hormone therapy this positive stimulation is prevented. This hormone therapy is applicable on various breast cancer conditions and situations like post surgery, or administration of hormone therapy post radiotherapy or chemotherapy and such. Post any other treatment it is primarily aimed at reduction of recurrence risk and is then termed as adjunct therapy. Prior to any surgical intervention it is aimed at shrinking of cancerous cells or reducing the size of the growth, also to control cancer growth in other parts of the body.