ABOUT HORMONE THERAPY FOR BREAST, ENDOMETRIAL, AND OVARIAN CANCERS
Some types of cancer depend on the hormones estrogen and progesterone to grow. Hormone therapy is designed to block or lower the level of hormones in the body that promote growth of certain cancers. Sometimes these therapies attach to features on the surface of cancer cells called receptors. Sometimes the therapies work inside the cells. All steroid hormone therapies, like those targeting the estrogen receptor, work inside the cell.
Conditions treated with hormone therapy
- Breast Cancer
- Endometrial (Uterine)
Hormone therapies prevent cancer cells from getting access to hormones.
Types of hormone therapy
The main types of hormone (endocrine) therapy are:
- Drugs that block receptors: These medications attach to the hormone receptors to prevent estrogen from reaching cancer cells, slowing cell growth.
- Drugs that lower female hormones throughout the body: The ovaries produce estrogen before menopause starts. If the ovaries no longer function because of menopause or another reason, an enzyme called aromatase can still produce small amounts of the hormone. Medications that stop the enzyme from producing estrogen are called aromatase inhibitors (AIs).
Possible side effects of hormone therapy
The side effects of drug therapy vary depending on the type of drug and the dose. Your doctor will discuss the specific medications you will be taking, their side effects, and ways to manage them.
Most side effects go away after your treatment ends. The most common side effects that you may experience include:
- Hot flashes
- Mood disturbances
- Nausea and vomiting
- Reduced sex drive
- Blood clots
- Uterine cancers
- Vaginal bleeding, discharge, or dryness
Published April 2018
Stanford Health Care © 2018