What is Hormone Therapy?
Female hormones, especially estrogen, play the major role in the development of breast cancer. In the breast cancer, there are receptors on the surface of tumor cells, wherein the hormones are bound. Hormones that attach to these receptors stimulate the growth of the tumor. Hormone receptors are routinely examined in a biopsy specimen of patients with breast cancer, and the hormone sensitivity of the tumor is stated in the report. It is known that 70 percent of breast cancers are sensitive to hormones. Hormonotherapy drugs either hinder attachment of hormones to the receptors on the cell surface or they decrease the production of hormones in your body. In other words, it is, in fact, an anti-hormone therapy.
In patients who menstruate, the hormone receptors are inactivated by Tamoxifen so that estrogen cannot attach, or the ovaries are inactivated that are the most important estrogen-synthesizing tissues. Ovaries are inactivated through monthly or quarterly injections.
In postmenopausal women, the most important source of estrogen is the adrenal gland as the ovaries are no longer active. In this group of patients, certain drugs, called aromatase inhibitors, are used to prevent estrogen synthesis in the body. Tamoxifen can also be used in the menopausal women.
Hormone drugs are used to prevent the recurrence potential of the breast cancer if the disease is diagnosed early, or they are used to control the progression of a metastatic disease especially in patients with bone metastasis or limited organ metastases.
Prostate cancer is also a hormone-sensitive cancer. Androgen, a male sex hormone, is secreted from the testicles. In prostate cancer, secretion of androgen from the testicles is ceased through injections at three-month intervals to prevent the growth of prostate cancer. In addition, there is another hormonal therapy that aims to stop the growth of the prostate cancer through the inactivation of androgen hormone receptors on the prostate cancer cells. In our day, we have new and effective drugs that prevent the growth of prostate cancer and work by stopping various stages of androgen synthesis. Hormone therapy is superior to the chemotherapy in terms of side effects and it allows the patients to maintain their life without deteriorating their quality of life.