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Hormone therapy

Breast cancer cells often have hormone receptors like the Estrogen Receptor (ER) and Progesterone Receptor (PR). Pathologists routinely check every new breast cancer patient for hormone receptors since ER and/or PR can influence the outcome and guide therapy.

Cancers that are ER-positive often respond to medications that either block the estrogen receptor or lower the amount of estrogen in a women’s body. This type of treatment, called hormone therapy, can reduce the risk for recurrence in early stage ER-positive breast cancer and can slow the growth and spread of cancer in ER-positive metastatic breast cancer.

Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors are two types medications often used in hormone therapy. These medications are effective in reducing the synthesis of estrogen in post-menopausal women.

Both tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors are safe and effective for patients with breast cancer. Although each drug has its own set of side effects (hot flashes are the most common), most women tolerate these medications well.