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Breast Cancer - New Advancements That Can Help!

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Mukul Gharote 91% (35 ratings)
MBBS, DM - Oncology, MD - General Medicine
Oncologist, Nashik  •  15 years experience
Breast Cancer - New Advancements That Can Help!

Chemotherapy has been the remedy for cancer since the late 90s. But in today’s world the medical field has been improved so much that new methods have been invented. One of them is Hormonal therapy. It is used to cure some types of breast cancer that are affected by hormones. Receptor proteins in the breast cancer cells attach to estrogen and help the cells grow. This therapy stops the receptors attaching to estrogen in various ways.

When it is used?
Hormonal breast cancer therapy is performed after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back. It is also applied to treat the cancer that has come back or to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. Sometimes, if needed, it starts before the surgery. It takes five years, generally.

How it works?
Hormonal therapy mainly stops estrogen from acting on the cancer cells or lowers the estrogen level. There are different ways to do that.

  1. Blocking Estrogen Receptors: These drugs stop estrogen from helping breast cancer cells.
    • Tamoxifen: It acts as anti-estrogen in the breast cells, but acts like estrogen in other cells. It lowers the risk of breast cancer and also stops cancer from coming back.
    • Toremifene: It works in a similar way, but it is only used in metastatic breast cancer. It also decreases the pain and swelling in the muscles and bones.
    • Fulvestrant: It blocks and damages estrogen receptors. It is given by injections after other drugs stop working.
  2. Lowering Estrogen Levels: These drugs slow the growth of cancer by lowering estrogen levels.

    • Aromatase Inhibitors: These drugs stop estrogen production in women whose ovaries are not working due to menopause or other treatments. There are three types of this drug- Letrozole, Anastrozole and Exemestane.
    • Ovarian Suppression: In this method, ovaries are removed or shut down to turn pre-menopausal women to post-menopausal. There are several ways to do this, and they are- Oophorectomy or surgery, LHRH analogs and applying chemotherapy drugs.

There are some other types of hormone therapy that are less common. They were used more in the past. They are:

  1. Megestrol acetate
  2. Androgens
  3. High doses of estrogen

Side Effects:
Unfortunately, Hormonal breast cancer therapy has lots of side effects. They are-

  1. Hot flashes
  2. Mood swings
  3. Vagina discharge or dryness
  4. Developing uterine cancer
  5. Blood clots
  6. Stroke
  7. Night sweat
  8. Headache
  9. Mild nausea
  10. Bone pain
  11. Injection site pain
  12. Muscle pain and joint stiffness and pain
  13. Bone thinning
  14. Menopause

Although hormonal therapy has lots of side effects, they are limited to different kinds of hormonal therapies and it is not necessary that they will surely happen. But it is best to undergo any kind of treatment with a doctor’s advice. So patients should consult the doctor first. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!

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