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How Does Hormone Therapy Treat Cancer?

Hormone therapy uses medicines that help to block or reduce the number of hormones in the body to stop the growth of cancer.

Hormones are naturally produced by glands in the body’s endocrine system. They travel around the body through the bloodstream, transmitting messages from one part of the body to the other.

Hormones help in the growth and activity of certain cells and organs in the body.   Some cancers depend on hormones for growth and development, while others don’t.

Hormone therapy prevents hormones from fueling the growth and division of hormone-sensitive cancer cells in the body. Hormone-sensitive cancers include breast, prostate, ovarian, and endometrial cancer.

The type of hormone therapy a patient is given depends on their type of cancer. Here’s how hormone therapy works for different types of cancers;

Breast cancer – Hormone therapy can help treat some breast cancers with estrogen and progesterone receptors. Hormone treatment helps to stop the hormones from reaching breast cancer cells. The hormone drugs include tamoxifen or raloxifene and more.

Endometrial cancer – Estrogen and progesterone hormones affect the growth of cells that line the womb. Hormone therapy helps to shrink large womb cancers or treat those that recur. Drugs for endometrial cancers include medroxyprogesterone acetate (Provera) and megestrol (Megace). Other treatments include aromatase inhibitors, which are used on patients who have been through menopause. Aromatase inhibitors can block aromatase to prevent it from changing androgens into estrogen.

Prostate cancer – Prostate cancer uses testosterone to grow. Hormone therapy can help block or reduce the amount of testosterone in the body to lower the risk of early prostate cancer recurrence. It can also shrink advanced prostate cancer or shrink its growth. Patients use luteinizing hormone blockers to prevent the production of luteinizing hormones, which are responsible for the production of testosterone by the testicles. Anti-androgen drugs are also used to block testosterone from reaching prostate cancer cells.

Other new hormonal treatments for prostate cancer include enzalutamide and abiraterone.

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