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Treatment

 
Treatment

Chapter: 6 - Treatment

Subchapter: 9 - Hormone Therapy

Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are chemicals produced by glands in the body. In our simplified illustration, we are using circles for estrogen and squares for progesterone. Normally, these hormones help regulate body cycles like menstruation. However, as we discussed in Subchapter 3.1 “Growth of Cancer,” sometimes these same hormones can cause cancer to grow.

The pathologist will perform tests on the cancer cells to determine if they have receptors that feed on estrogen or progesterone, stimulating their growth. If the cancer cells have these receptors, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy drugs, such as blockers or inhibitors. Both types of drugs help to destroy cancer cells by cutting off their supply of hormones.

Hormone Blockers
The most common hormone therapy drug is Tamoxifen. It blocks the estrogen-shaped openings in the cells, preventing estrogen-fueled cancers from growing.

Tamoxifen can be taken as a pill on a daily basis, up to five years after surgery.

Hormone Inhibitors
Hormone inhibitors also target cancer cells with hormone receptors, but unlike hormone blockers, they work by reducing the body’s hormone production. When cancer cells are cut off from the ‘food supply’ (in this case, estrogen) the tumor begins to starve and die.

However, hormone inhibitors are only used in postmenopausal women.

Generally, the benefits of using hormone therapy and chemotherapy together have a much greater combined effect than using either alone. If your cancer is positive for hormone receptors, your doctor may recommend both therapies.

Related Questions

  • Thumb avatar default

    Has anyone had problems with tamoxifen? I am extremely nauseous and very tired! 5 more years of this?

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    almost 8 years 2 answers
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      I would always check in with your oncologist when you are having side effects that are impacting your life as it is with you. I have heard several of the women on this site having similar side effects. Sometimes these can get better over time but it is best to check.
      Good luck to you, Sharon

      Comment
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Learning About Breast Cancer

      I was feeling sick for about a week or so but that went away. I take my tamoxifen with my breakfast, try taking it with food, it might help. After 3 months I still get a bit tired during the day. All the other side effects seem to have subsided so try and stick it out it will get better. This...

      more

      I was feeling sick for about a week or so but that went away. I take my tamoxifen with my breakfast, try taking it with food, it might help. After 3 months I still get a bit tired during the day. All the other side effects seem to have subsided so try and stick it out it will get better. This drug is keeping people like us alive and we are lucky to have it. Good luck.

      Comment
  • jo russell Profile

    Has anyone developed a nipple discharge in the affected breast after treatment including wide excision,chemo,and radiation. I am currently on tamoxifen.

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 3 answers
    • Evelyn Heilbrunn Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      Nope. But stupid answer, one you already know -- get it checked right away. Good luck!

      Comment
    • Marianne R. Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2011

      I agree go see the doctor.

      Comment
  • Lisa W Profile

    My port was just placed, 3/16. 3/23 I will find out when my 1st day of chemo will begin. What can I expect on my 1st day, how should I prepare, is it going to hurt? I will have ACT,Followed by hormone therapy- Tamoxifen.

    Asked by anonymous

    Patient
    almost 8 years 6 answers
    • View all 6 answers
    • Diana Foster Payne Profile
      anonymous
      Stage 4 Patient

      Hi Lisa. I remember how I felt having my first dose of chemo. It was scary not knowing what to expect. I began in May of last year with ACT as well. As Ali & Terri said, it's important to drink lots of fluids. I like Gatorade & drank lots of it. :). You'll be so glad you have the port when it's...

      more

      Hi Lisa. I remember how I felt having my first dose of chemo. It was scary not knowing what to expect. I began in May of last year with ACT as well. As Ali & Terri said, it's important to drink lots of fluids. I like Gatorade & drank lots of it. :). You'll be so glad you have the port when it's all said & done. There might be a little sting when they place the needle. It only takes a sec but you can ask for numbing cream to put on it to help. After several times, it didn't sting at all. :). They'll put something in your IV for nausea. Then they'll send you home with a scrip for nausea as well (usually Zoloft). Make sure you take as directed Before you begin to feel nauseas. If you wait till you feel nauseous it takes longer to work. I would feel a little yucky a few days afterwards. But as time went by I felt better. You'll probably be receiving the Neaulasta shot periodically to built your white blood cells up. It tends to cause some bone pain/body aches the next day or two. If you'll take Claritin (not Claritin D) the day before chemo, the day of, and for three days after, it will be a tremendous help!!! Going through chemo seems like a long road. I read something that really helped me deal with it better. Try to think of chemo as something thats being done FOR you....instead of TO you. It made a world of difference. It was my friend & ally in beating cancer. After I finished my chemo, I had my mastectomy. My pathology results came back that I had 13 positive lymph nodes, and three were extracapsular extended (which meant the cancer had broken outside the lymph nodes). So it was necessasary to have 8 more rounds of chemo with two different drugs Gemzar/Carboplatin. I began my new chemo 3 weeks after my surgery. I'm in the middle of radiation now. Chemo is doable and very much worth it!!! I'm happy to say that my last PET scan showed no cancer!!!!!!!! You can do this Lisa. We'll be cheering you on! I hope you continue to come back to share. We care! Lots of hugs!!!

      1 comment
    • Sharon Danielson Profile
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2007

      Dear Lisa,

      All great advise from everyone! It is especially important to drink plenty of fluids. I had the port placed in the morning and my first chemo in the afternoon. It was a lot for one day but I didn't feel anything except sleepy. I was extremely lucky because the entire breast cancer...

      more

      Dear Lisa,

      All great advise from everyone! It is especially important to drink plenty of fluids. I had the port placed in the morning and my first chemo in the afternoon. It was a lot for one day but I didn't feel anything except sleepy. I was extremely lucky because the entire breast cancer experience was relatively easy. I had a bad reaction to one of the drugs in my "recipe" but that was just me. I felt tired and a bit weak the 1st 5 days after the treatment but felt fine after that. We live on a little farm and I was out scooping and caring for our animals like normal after that.
      You won't know how you are going to react to the chemo until after you have it. I did not have any mouth sores and I too, am prone to getting them too. I lost my taste for my two favorite things.... coffee and chocolate and developed a craving for salads, and expecially spinach!!!
      Be especially careful guarding your weakened immune system. I stayed away from crowds, and put a sign on my door that asked people who felt they were coming down with something to postpone their visit. I also washed my hands frequently and was fastidious about shielding myself from possibly picking up colds and flu. I also got a flu shot before I started chemo. I did not come down with colds while I was going through treatment.
      Try not to put extra worries on yourself of "what might happen." You feel nothing from the treatment itself. In my recipe they did put in something to relax me so I could always expect a nice little nap.
      I had some very hilarious times while getting my treatments because I was in a room with several other people. We all laughed, we all had naps, and we all ate "junk food." You would think the feeling in that room would be somber.... it was anything but.....! We had fun and much teasing, jokes, and story telling. There are days when you feel lousy BUT in the big picture, they are temporary. Tell the staff about your feelings and if you have questions, ask them! Don't think mistakes can't happen.... I was almost given the wrong drug that I had a horrible reaction to. Before one of my treatments, I asked the infusion nurse if this "drug" was in my mix. She said "Yes" and I kindly informed her I was not to have it because of the reaction I had. She kindly argued with me, and I did the same back to her. I finally stood up and said... "You can go to the oncologist, get it corrected and I would come back at another time." She rounded up my oncologist and to her horror, discovered I was correct. She said it was good I was so insistant. SOOOOO stand up for yourself, you are your own advocate. They are not perfect... and they make mistakes. Approach this with humor, politeness, but be sure you put on your "warrior-wear". You will be ok.... hang in there darlin'. Accept help from your pals, especially if they want to make you meals....yum. Positive vibes, and blessings you way! Sharon

      Comment
  • J G Profile

    Being on Tamoxifen has put me quickly into menopause. My breasts have become larger and hurts my neck and back! Despite lumpectomy surgery for Estrogen sensitive BC could i qualify for reduction surgery? have gotten larger

    Asked by anonymous

    Learning About Breast Cancer
    over 7 years 1 answer
    • Thumb avatar default
      anonymous
      Survivor since 2012

      Dear J G, It is my understanding that you can have surgery on both to achieve symmetry which would require reshaping the breast that had the lumpectomy. Your surgeon can answer this and probably make good things happen for you. Go for it. Jo :-D

      1 comment

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