Since some types of breast cancer cells rely on estrogen and other hormones to fuel their growth, for some women, medicines that block or stop this action can potentially help in countering the cancer. The choice of hormonal therapy for you will depend on whether you’ve gone through menopause.
For women who haven’t yet gone through menopause, we may recommend an estrogen receptor blocker, such as tamoxifen. Or we may choose to add medications that suppress ovarian function, such as leuprolide (Lupron®) or goserelin (Zoladex®).
If you’ve already gone through menopause, we may recommend an aromatase inhibitor drug, which blocks estrogen production and thereby starves cancer cells of the substance they need for growth. Aromatase inhibitors include anastrozole (Arimidex®), letrozole (Femara®), and exemestane (Aromasin®).
Postmenopausal women can also be treated with an estrogen receptor blocker, such as fulvestrant (Faslodex®).
Because hormonal therapies can lead to a number of side effects, your care team will review these with you and talk about how you might handle them. Potential side effects include:
- menstrual irregularities
- hot flashes
- decreased libido
- vaginal dryness
- bone aches