October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We’re sure you’ve seen the pink ribbons popping up everywhere again, and with good reason. This disease affects so many in such profound ways. Almost every one of us knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer in one way or another. Many brave warriors fight the battle and win, but many lose the fight, too. For those who eradicate the cancer from their systems and/or go into remission, there are still more battles to be fought. More land mines to side-step as you deal with the aftermath of your treatment, whatever it may have been. In recent years, hormone replacement therapy for breast cancer patients has come a long way, but deciding whether or not it’s right for you comes down to some key factors.
Each individual case will differ depending on your specific circumstances, but hormone therapy is usually considered after surgery in order to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back. In some instances, hormone therapy may start before surgery. In either case, hormone therapy is typically taken for 5 to 10 years.
Hormone therapy in breast cancer patients works by attaching to estrogen and/or progesterone receptors that would normally enable the cancer to grow and spread and blocking those receptors to stop the cancer cells from multiplying. Most hormone therapies for breast cancer patients will lower overall estrogen levels or stop estrogen from acting on the cancer cells.
For patients with metastatic breast cancer (where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body), it is not uncommon for hormone therapy to be combined with other targeted treatment options in order to fight the cancer and hopefully achieve remission more quickly and with more longevity. The targeted therapies that attack specific weaknesses in your cancer’s cells can help make hormone therapy more effective.
Because 2 out of 3 breast cancer patients have hormone-sensitive cancers, hormone therapy is an effective choice that is helping many cancer survivors live better, longer lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, hormone therapy following radiation, surgery, or chemotherapy has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence in early-stage patients with hormone-sensitive breast cancers. It has also been shown to effectively reduce the risk of growth and progression in metastatic breast cancer patients with hormone-sensitive tumors.
With the studies showing such favorable results for hormone therapy, there have been more studies looking into whether or not hormone therapy can be used to help prevent breast cancer, and the answer looks extremely promising. Studies are showing that some hormone therapies can be used to effectively reduce the risk of ever developing breast cancer in high-risk patients. If you think this might be a good option for you, please consult with your doctor and consider your options.
Because these types of hormone therapy lower estrogen and block estrogen and/or progesterone from attaching to those receptor cells, side effects can often mimic menopause (a natural process in which estrogen dips, too). Patients taking hormone therapy to reduce the chances of breast cancer from returning may experience side effects like hot flashes and/or vaginal dryness.
When deciding what hormone therapy might be best for you, it’s important to work closely with your medical team to assess your cancer and your treatment plan thus far. There are some hormone therapies that can only be given if other treatment has not yet occurred or can only be used in conjunction with a specific subset of other medications and treatment options. If you want to know more about the hormone therapies we offer at Revive MD, contact us and we can help you determine if our services might be a good fit for your case.
To all our breast cancer warriors out there, the Revive MD team sends our love and light. You are powerful and we are honored to help you return to the quality of life you deserve.