Hormone therapy used in the treatment of cancer should not be confused with hormone replacement therapy often prescribed for women experiencing symptoms of menopause and in particular, hot flashes and mood swings.
These two medical treatments are very different from each other, despite their similar sounding names, and hormone replacement therapy is considered unsafe for women with breast cancer.
Hormones are natural substances made by glands in our bodies. They are carried in our bloodstream and they control the growth and activity of certain cells and organs.
Hormone replacement therapy increases the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the blood using a synthetic form of these hormones.
Hormone therapy is a cancer treatment method used primarily for treating hormone dependent or hormone positive cancers, particularly breast, uterine and prostate cancer. In other words they are used to treat cancers that need a specific hormone in order to grow and develop.
Hormone therapy stops a specific hormone, in the case of breast cancer, oestrogen and/or progesterone, from reaching the cancer cells, thereby stopping or slowing down the growth of the cancer.
The most common types of hormone therapy for breast cancer are a group of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors, selective oestrogen receptor modulators and oestrogen receptor down-regulators. One of the most common hormone therapy drugs for the treatment of breast cancer is Tamoxifen.
Hormone therapy drugs lower the amount of oestrogen in the body as well as block the action of oestrogen in the body.
Whether or not hormone therapy is the right treatment for any one person’s breast cancer is determined by a physician after extensive medical testing. A woman, or man, should always be guided by their doctor’s advice when deciding on a course of treatment for breast cancer.