Hormonal therapies take advantage of the fact that some breast cancers depend on estrogen for their growth. They are given primarily to women whose tumors contain estrogen and/or progesterone receptors. The choice of hormonal therapy depends upon the patient’s menopausal status.
Patients can be treated with an estrogen receptor blocker such as tamoxifen. In some premenopausal patients, physicians may choose to add medications that suppress ovarian function. Examples include:
Postmenopausal patients can be treated with an aromatase inhibitor, which blocks estrogen production, thereby starving cancer cells of the substance they need for growth. Aromatase inhibitors include:
Postmenopausal patients can also be treated with an estrogen receptor blocker such as fulvestrant (Faslodex®).
Hormonal therapy can cause menstrual irregularities, infertility, hot flashes, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, and bone aches in some women. Your healthcare team will review the side effects you may experience from your specific treatment regimen.