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Hormonal therapy is entirely different than hormone replacement therapy. Hormonal therapy, in the form of a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) or an aromatase inhibitor (AI), helps 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.
The treatment is in the form of a pill that is taken daily. Some drugs are taken for two to three years, and then a different type of hormonal therapy drug is administered. Other protocols recommend taking the same drug for five years. There are even situations in which a patient may be taking it for longer than five years. Your doctor will determine if it is advisable for you to take hormonal therapy.
Side effects are similar to menopause but there are other possible risks, though small, that your doctor will discuss with you when determining the appropriateness of taking these drugs. These risks include blood clots or uterine cancer while taking Tamoxifen, or osteoporosis when taking an aromatase inhibitor.
Get more details on hormonal therapies, including the side effects and specific recommendations for premenopausal and postmenopausal women.