Since breast cancer is such a prevalent disease in the US, people need to pay keen attention to information about treatment and prevention. Regular cancer screening is also important, because early detection makes a big difference in saving lives. In addition to more traditional modalities, cancer treatment also includes options such as hormone therapy. But how effective is hormone treatment for breast cancer?
What is Hormone Therapy, And How Effective Is It?
Hormone therapy for breast cancer typically involves the use of medications to reduce hormone levels, or block hormone activity, so as to prevent them from acting on the cancer cells. However, hormone therapy is only effective for cancers that are hormone receptor positive.
Cells that are hormone receptor positive contain receptors for the hormones estrogen or progesterone, which makes them either ‘ER-positive’ or ‘PR-positive.’ Cell receptors are proteins found in specific cells of the body that receive messages, and then tell the cell how to respond. Cancer cells may receive signals from the hormones, which may encourage them to grow.
The medications used in hormone therapy are designed to slow or stop the growth of cancer cells that have receptors. Doctors generally have to test for hormone receptors before deciding if the cancer is likely to respond to this type of treatment. Cells that are hormone receptor negative will require alternative treatment. It’s been estimated that 2 in 3 cases of breast cancer in the US, are ER-positive or PR-positive cancers.