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Hormone therapy for breast cancer

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Some cancer cells are influenced by hormonal level in blood. To be treated, they require hormonal therapy that normalizes content of estrogen and other hormones in body. What are its peculiarities?

The role of hormones in cancer development

HER2 sensitive cells have certain receptors attracting and keeping estrogen. It promotes faster and more productive development and multiplying. 2/3 of all cancers are hormone-sensitive, which means that high level of estrogen triggers tumor development.

What therapy is needed for?

Breast cancer hormone therapy is aimed at blocking the ability of tumors to attract hormones and produce it. In most cases, this therapy helps to overcome tumor, or at least decrease its symptoms. This type of therapy is mostly assigned at advanced stages, e.g. in instances when disease affects not breast only, but some other organs, too.

This is a systematic therapy that allows reaching cancer cells in entire body. Only hormone sensitive cells can be treated this way. Otherwise, treatment will be useless.

When is it required?

Being a part of adjuvant therapy, it minimizes the chances of recurrence. In rarer cases, hormones are given before surgery. As a rule, this therapy lasts minimum five years. In cases of recurrence or cancer development, this therapy also proves to be useful.

Breast cancer prevention: do hormones help?

Yes, hormonal drugs aid to prevent cancer development, if a woman is at risk. Studies have shown that postmenopausal women taking hormonal drugs for cancer prevention decreased the risk of disease development at 50%. 5-year intake of Tamoxifen and Raloxifen reduced the danger of cancer occurrence on 38%. Tamoxifen can be used regardless of fact if a woman has reached menopause or not.

Drugs for therapy

All cancer drugs are created to stop estrogen influence on malignant cells. These can be pills or injections.

Tamoxifen

It causes receptor blocking so that cell growth and division was no longer boosted by estrogen. While having anti-estrogen properties in breast, it supplies the hormone to all organs. It is applicable in several cases:

  • If a woman needs a surgery, the drug can minimize chance of disease recurrence and increase lifespan. Besides, it lowers the possibility of tumor formation in another breast. Course may be started regardless of surgery date, and is typically taken during five-ten years. Usually assigned for fertile women. Otherwise, aromatase inhibitors comprise the treatment.
  • When ductal carcinoma is diagnosed, this drug prevents its recurrence. Besides, it prevents invasive cancer.
  • When tumor affects other organs, tamoxifen decelerates their growth and can even shrink them. As prevention measure for healthy women.

Toremifene (Fareston) works the same way, but is appropriate for advanced stages only. Both medications can condition the following side effects:

  1. Fatigue.
  2. Swings of mood.
  3. Dryness of vagina or discharges.
  4. Hot flash.

Fulvestrant

It provides almost the same hormone treatment for breast cancer, blocking and eliminating hormone receptors in malignant cells. Unlike Tamoxifen, it has anti-estrogen properties in entire body. If other drugs cannot help, doctors resolve to Fulvestrant to stop metastases. This medication is given in form of injections in butt. First two are made twice a month, the next ones – once a month. Possible complications are intake include:

  1. Hot flashes.
  2. Sweating during night.
  3. Nausea.
  4. Fatigue.

Aromatase inhibitors (AIs)

These cease or decrease female hormone production. They are usually prescribed for ladies after menopause, and block aromatase enzyme contained in adipose tissues from producing estrogen. The pills should be taken every day during 5 years and are recommended to decrease chances of recurrence. For cases when cancer gets back, they are also helpful and are taken while they bring relief. Some outcomes are:

  1. Pain in muscles and joints.
  2. Bone thinning, which may lead to fractures.

Ovarian ablation as an adjuvant measure

Since ovaries produce most part of estrogen in body, its cutting or cease of its work may help to make other therapies more effective. This measure is done by three different ways. Oophorectomy is removal of ovaries. Luteinizing hormone analogs block signals to ovaries to produce the hormone, which conditions short-term menopause. Chemotherapy drugs may damage the organ permanently, ceasing hormone production.

Hormonal drugs are essential for successful treatment. A properly figured out medication course does wonders: improves well-being, decreases symptoms and decelerates growth of malignant cells. Most often, they cause unpleasant side effects, but they disappear as soon as the course is over.

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