Open Accessibility Menu

Hormone Therapy

How Hormone Therapy is Used to Treat Cancer

Hormones are proteins or substances made by the body that help to control how certain types of cells work. For example, some parts of the body rely on sex hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, to function properly. There are other types of hormones in our bodies, too, such as thyroid hormones, cortisol, adrenaline, and insulin. Different types of hormones are made by different organs or glands.

Some cancers depend on hormones to grow. Because of this, these cancers can sometimes be treated by using medicines that block or alter a hormone. This can slow or stop the growth of the cancers that depend on that hormone to grow. Hormone therapy is mostly used to treat certain kinds of breast cancer and prostate cancer that depend on sex hormones to grow. A few other cancers can be treated with hormone therapy, too.

Hormone therapy is considered a systemic treatment because the hormones they target circulate in the body. The drug used in hormone therapy travel throughout the body to target and find the hormones. This makes it different from treatments like surgery and radiation. Surgery removes a tumor from a part of the body where cancer has been found, and radiation therapy is aimed at a certain area of the body to kill or damage cancer cells. Treatments like these are called local treatments because they affect one part of the body.

How Hormone Therapy Works

Hormone therapy travels throughout the body to find and target hormones. Different hormonal drugs work in different ways. They can:

  • Stop the body from making the hormone
  • Block the hormone from attaching to cancer cells
  • Alter the hormone so it doesn't work like it should

Hormone therapy can be used to:

  • Treat a certain kind of cancer by stopping or slowing its growth
  • Lessen symptoms related to a certain type of cancer

Getting Hormone Therapy

Oral drugs

Many types of hormone therapy are drugs that are taken by mouth. In these cases, you swallow the pill, capsule, or liquid just like other medicines. These are usually taken at home. How often they are taken depends on the drug being given and the type of cancer being treated. Because of this, it’s very important to make sure you know exactly how it should be taken and to follow instructions exactly. There may be special precautions to take, depending on the drug you're prescribed.

Injectable drugs

Some types of hormone therapy are injections given with a syringe in the arm, leg, or hip. These are called intramuscular (or IM) injections. There are also types that are given just under the skin of the abdomen (belly). These are called subcutaneous (SC or subcu) injections. How often they are given depends on the drug and type of cancer being treated. The injections might be given in your treatment center or doctor's office. Sometimes patients are taught to give their own injections or a caregiver can be taught to give them.

Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer

After treatment for breast cancer ends, your healthcare team will develop a follow-up care plan which may include regular physical examinations and medical tests, like mammography, to monitor your recovery for the coming months and years. It will also involve managing any ongoing or late effects of treatment. Hormone therapy is often used after surgery (as adjuvant therapy) to help reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Sometimes it is started before surgery (as neoadjuvant therapy) as well. It is usually used for at least 5 years. Hormone therapy can also be used to treat cancer that has come back after treatment or that has spread to other parts of the body.

Contact us today for more information. (337) 494-6768 or (337) 494-4890.