Is Hormonal Therapy Right for You?

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Hormonal therapy is used to reduce the risk of early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer coming back after surgery and to treat advanced-stage/metastatic hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Hormonal therapy can be used by both pre- and postmenopausal women and men. Hormonal therapy will not work on cancers that are hormone-receptor-negative.

Hormonal therapy also can be used to lower the risk of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in women who are at high risk but haven't been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Hormonal therapy can be given before, at the same time as, or after other breast cancer treatments. The timing and the type of hormonal therapy medicine you get depends on your unique situation and preferences.

Women who are pregnant should not take hormonal therapy. Hormonal therapy is never safe during pregnancy. Visit the Treatment for Breast Cancer During Pregnancy page for more information.

There are three different types of hormonal therapy medicines:

  • aromatase inhibitors:
    • Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole)
    • Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane)
    • Femara (chemical name: letrozole)
  • SERMs (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators):
    • tamoxifen
    • Evista (chemical name: raloxifene)
    • Fareston (chemical name: toremifene)
  • ERDs (Estrogen Receptor Downregulators):
    • Faslodex (chemical name: fulvestrant)

In addition to taking a hormonal therapy medicine, premenopausal women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer or who are at high risk for breast cancer also may want to consider ovarian shutdown with medication or surgically removing the ovaries. The ovaries are the main source of estrogen before menopause, so ovarian shutdown or removal stops them from producing estrogen.

You and your doctor will look at several factors when deciding on the best hormonal therapy medicine for you:

  • your menopausal status
  • breast cancer stage
  • your history, if any, of blood clots
  • your bone density
  • your history, if any, of arthritis
  • your personal risk of uterine and ovarian cancer

Research has shown that the "personality" of the cancer, which your doctor pieces together from your pathology report, may make one hormonal therapy medicine work better than another one for you. You and your doctor will look carefully at all your hormonal therapy treatment options and decide on a treatment plan that is best for you.

The benefits, side effects, and other detailed information about each hormonal therapy medicine, as well as ovarian shutdown and removal, are described on individual pages in this section. Use the links on the top left side of this page to see the information.

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