Hormone therapy can be a safe, effective and minimally invasive way to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer after successful treatment, but it is not suitable for everyone. This long-term process gradually reduces your estrogen production, impeding the growth of certain types of cancer cells as a result. If you have recently undergone therapy for your breast cancer and are now exploring your preventative options, you may be eligible for hormone therapy. These are three steps you should walk through with your oncologist to determine whether or not hormone therapy is the right choice for you.
Understanding Hormone-Receptive Cancer Cells
Generally speaking, breast cancer cells fall into one of two categories: hormone receptor-positive and hormone receptor-negative. As you might suspect, hormone receptor-positive cancer cells are able to absorb hormones, most notably estrogen, and use them to grow and multiply. It is this form of cancer that responds to hormone therapy, which essentially starves the cancer in order to contain it. Other types of cancer cells do not require estrogen and are, therefore, unaffected by this treatment plan. If you have already undergone cancer treatment, your oncologist will have the information regarding your specific cancer type on hand and should be able to quickly decide whether or not you are eligible based on this criteria.
Assessing Your Natural Hormone Production
Another important consideration when examining hormone therapy is how your body naturally produces estrogen. Pre-menopausal women primarily create estrogen in their ovaries, whereas post-menopausal women generate only small amounts of the hormone within fatty tissues like those found in breasts. You may also be somewhere in between during the transitional phase of perimenopause. All of these states will affect both your risk for recurring breast cancer and how you respond to the various methods used in hormonal therapy. For example, if you are pre-menopausal, the medications used to lower or block your estrogen may create menopause-like symptoms such as hot flashes.
Choosing the Right Hormonal Therapy
Generally, any potential negative side-effects of hormone therapy pale in comparison to the benefits of discouraging recurring breast cancer. You can, however, work with your physician to minimize discomfort and choose a therapy that functions best with your body's unique chemistry and processes. This may take some trial and error, but eventually you should be left with a simple, long-term plan to keep any new cancer growths in check and hopefully prevent them altogether. As you move through the stages of breast cancer treatment, don't hesitate to discuss this option with your oncologist, such as Southwest Oncology Centers, and begin exploring whether or not hormone therapy is the best next step for your medical needs.
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