Breast Cancer (cont.)

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Should I stop taking postmenopausal hormone therapy (HT)?

Breast cells are programmed to respond to certain hormones as signals for growth and multiplication. The most prominent examples of these hormones are estrogens and progesterone. Many breast cancer cells retain hormone receptors (molecular configurations on the cell surface to which the hormones bind). The hormone receptors therefore make the cancer cells responsive to these particular hormones.

In general, taking hormones is not recommended if a diagnosis of breast cancer is under consideration. This does not necessarily mean that you can never resume hormone therapy. This issue is generally reconsidered after the completion of your evaluation and treatment. You should consult with your physician before you stop or start any new medications.

Even though my breast tumor does not have hormone receptors, should I take tamoxifen to reduce the risk of a new tumor?

Following completion of your treatment for breast cancer, whether or not tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is prescribed should at least be addressed. In many cases, the primary breast cancer for which the patient is being treated may not be hormone-receptor positive. In these cases, tamoxifen (which binds to the estrogen receptor in place of estrogen) is not generally part of the treatment protocol.

However, the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (a study of the use of tamoxifen) demonstrated a significant reduction in the development of new cancers in the opposite breast in patients who were treated with tamoxifen. So, the possible use and benefits of tamoxifen should not be ignored. A thoughtful evaluation of all the factors in a particular case will lead to a recommendation that balances the benefits of tamoxifen against the potential risks. Your treatment team should address this issue with you.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/25/2013

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