If breast cancer is hormone-receptor positive, hormone therapy can help prevent cancer recurrence and increase survivorship. Hormone-receptor positive means that the cancer uses hormones like estrogen to grow. Hormone therapy prevents cancer cells from getting access to hormones.
Because hormone-receptor positive breast cancers are the most common cancers, most women who have breast cancer undergo hormone therapy treatment. You may need to take daily pills for five to ten years after treatment, depending on what type of cancer you had.
At Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, our oncologists help you determine if hormone therapy can help stop cancer from returning. Through careful follow-up, we help you enjoy a greater quality of life and better health after cancer treatment.
Hormone Therapy Side Effects
Hormone therapy can have side effects. Your side effects may depend on what type of hormone therapy you are taking. You can improve the effectiveness of hormone therapy and reduce your risk of side effects by maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating and exercise. Speak to your provider about the use of acupuncture to help alleviate some of these side effects.
Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERM) block estrogen receptors in breast cells, but act like estrogen everywhere else in the body. It is most often used in pre-menopausal women, but can cause side effects that mimic menopause, including:
- Decreased sex drive
- Hair thinning
- Hot flashes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Night sweats
- Skin dryness
- Vaginal dryness
Another type of hormone therapy, called aromatase inhibitors, are more often used in post-menopausal women. They prevent the body from making estrogen but can have side effects like joint pain or bone density loss.
Your oncologist can help you manage side effects of hormone therapy. While not all side effects can be relieved, they can help you find products like lubricants for vaginal dryness, strategies to help you sleep, or supplements to support bone health. Though side effects can be uncomfortable, hormone therapy benefits far outweigh the risks.