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Hormonal therapy for breast cancer works on a simple theory. Because breast cancer growth can expand and quicken with naturally occurring hormones in the body, stopping or reducing these hormones will decrease the incidence of breast cancer.
Similar to other methods of treating cancer like chemotherapy, hormonal therapy for breast cancer works by sending agents into the bloodstream in order to attack and kill cancer cells. Reducing or ceasing hormone production results in a cessation of cancer cell growth in certain women.
In order to be a candidate for hormonal therapy the patient must have cancer that is estrogen-positive, which means that estrogen causes it to grow and spread. Hormonal therapy can also be applied after other treatments take place. Hormonal therapy can insure that the recurrence of breast cancer gets reduced and can help in preventing additional cancers in the future.
The most popular method of hormonal therapy has been tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is a medication that inhibits estrogen growth. The drug is taken daily usually for a five-year period. Newer studies show that tamoxifen may be even more effective when used in combination with other hormonal therapy drugs.
Hormonal therapy agents known as aromatase inhibitors are seen to be a newer and more effective way to treat and prevent breast cancer. Recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the aromatase inhibitors, when taken after shorter time periods of tamoxifen, can result in lower rates of recurrence.
The aromatase inhibitor Aromasin can further reduce breast cancer rates when taken after tamoxifen therapy. Another aromatase inhibitor called Femara causes rates of recurrence to drop by nearly half following five years of tamoxifen therapy. Arimidex, another aromatase inhibitor, results in fewer breast cancer cases when taken after two or three years of tamoxifen.
The recent studies are encouraging for further experimentation in hormonal therapy treatments for breast cancer. The combinative therapies seem to cause the best results. Most women were used to taking just five years of tamoxifen therapy and then their rates of recurrence would rise after the period was over.
The new hormonal therapy combinations have shown that taking tamoxifen for just a couple of years and then taking the newer aromatase inhibitors can result in a dramatic decline in breast cancer rates and recurrence.
Both tamoxifen and the aromatase inhibitors do have potentially serious side effects, however. The benefits of these hormonal therapy treatments so far seem to medically outweigh the risks, however.