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Adjuvant Hormonal Therapy

Hormonal therapy (not to be confused with hormone replacement therapy that some women take to ease menopausal symptoms) is classified as selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) or an aromatase inhibitor (AI). Both of these types of treatments help block estrogen’s ability to reach a breast cancer cell. If your hormone receptor (HR) test was positive, that tells the doctors that estrogen and/or progesterone may promote the growth of breast cancer cells in your body. By taking a drug that works on breast cancer cells, like an estrogen blocker, the risk of breast cancer recurring or possibly continuing to grow is reduced.

How is hormonal therapy administered?

The treatment is in the form of a pill that is taken daily for five to ten years.  Premenopausal women may also be recommended monthly injections to suppress the production of estrogen from their ovaries. Your doctor will determine if it is advisable for you to take hormonal therapy.

What are the side effects of hormonal therapy?

Side effects  of Tamoxifen may include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness or discharge
  • Changes in sexual desire and sexual response
  • Mood swings

There is also a slight risk of developing one of the following while taking Tamoxifen:

  • Changes in the endometrial lining
  • Stroke
  • Blood clot
  • Cataracts
  • Uterine or endometrial cancers

Side effects of aromatase inhibitors include:

  • Bone/muscle pain
  • Changes in bone density or osteoporosis
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in sexual desire and sexual response
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Blood pressure changes

Learn more

Get more details on hormonal therapies, including the side effects and specific recommendations for premenopausal and postmenopausal women.