Estrogen & Progesterone Breast Cancer
When you are aware of the hormones your cancer is sensitive to, it allows doctors to develop strategies to treat the cancer or prevent it from reoccurring. Keep reading to learn about breast cancer that is sensitive to estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen Receptor Positive (ER+)
The ovaries are the main source of estrogen production in women until they reach menopause and then lesser amounts get created in fatty tissue as the adrenal gland creates a hormone that gets converted into estrogen. A cancer is ER+ if it has receptors for estrogen. This means the cancer cells receive signals from estrogen which helps promote their growth.
Progesterone Receptor Positive (PR+)
Progesterone is one of the progestogen steroid hormones and is secreted in the ovary’s corpus luteum during the second half of the menstrual cycle. If a cancer has progesterone receptors, it is said to be PR+. This means cancer cells receive signals from progesterone which causes them to grow.
Estrogen & Progesterone Cancer Treatment
If you have a hormone receptor positive breast cancer, hormonal therapy is likely to be the main form of treatment. In most cases, the goal will be to either block estrogen production or reduce the amount of estrogen in the body. Here are the main forms of hormonal therapy:
- SERMs: These drugs are designed to block the effect of estrogen in your breast tissue by becoming attached to the breast cells’ estrogen receptors. There are a number of drugs used for this purpose, though
Tamoxifen is one of the most popular. Patients can take Tamoxifen for five to 10 years as a means of lowering the risk of the cancer returning; while helping them live longer. Fulvestrant and Toremifene are other commonly used SERMs.
- Aromatose Inhibitors: Also known as AIs, these drugs halt the production of estrogen in postmenopausal women. AIs block aromatose, which is an enzyme that turns androgen (a hormone) into tiny amounts of estrogen. As a result, there is less estrogen to help the growth of hormone receptor breast cancer cells. Common AIs include Aromasin, Femara, and Arimidex.
- ERDs: This stands for Estrogen Receptor Downregulators and they also block estrogen’s effects in breast tissue. When the estrogen receptor contains an ERD, the estrogen has no room to attach itself to the cell. ERDs are also effective at reducing the amount of estrogen receptors and ensuring existing receptors don’t work as effectively by changing their shape. Faslodex is one of the most commonly used ERDs.
- LHRHs: This works by shutting down the ovaries thus preventing the production of estrogen. Obviously, this means there is less estrogen available to enable the growth of hormone receptor breast cancer cells. Patients usually receive LHRHs via injection every few months. The most common forms of LHRHs include Trelstar and Zoladex.
- Prophylactic Ovary Removal: This is an aggressive way to reduce the amount of estrogen in the body. It involves removing the ovaries and the fallopian tubes and is typically a procedure performed on women at high risk for ovarian and breast cancer.
When you understand more about the genetic and chemical makeup of your cancer, it becomes possible for doctors to determine the best course of action to remove the existing cancer and reduce the risk of a reoccurrence.
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