Some tumors are hormone-sensitive, which means that hormones, naturally produced by the body, stimulate their growth. Breast cancers are in most cases dependent on estrogen and prostate cancers on androgens.
Hormone therapy is a treatment that prevents the stimulating action of these hormones on cancer cells.
There are two types of hormone therapy:
- Non-drug treatments, which consist of stopping the secretion of hormones by the ovaries or testes by removing them by surgery (ovariectomy) or by irradiating them (radiotherapy).
- Drug treatments which act throughout the body, on all hormone-sensitive cells. Finally, in the case of breast cancer, and this is a new mode of action, it can block estrogen by preventing its transformation in the body.
Usage of hormone therapy
- Hormone therapy is used in hormone-dependent cancers, that is, when cancer cells show hormone receptors.
In the case of breast cancer,
- The doctor may prescribe hormone therapy when the tumor is diagnosed at an early stage. This treatment may or may not be associated with conventional chemotherapy and / or surgery and / or radiotherapy. Hormone therapy may be prescribed as first treatment (neo-adjuvant) or at the end of treatment (adjuvant).
In the case of breast cancer, adjuvant hormone therapy lasts at least five years. Hormone therapy may also be prescribed in advanced breast cancers.
Hormone therapy is used in advanced or metastatic prostate cancer (involving the bones and lungs), or for recurrence. It may be offered alone or in combination with another treatment. The type of hormone therapy and the possible combination with another treatment (surgery, radiotherapy) vary from one patient to another. When hormone therapy is combined with radiation therapy, it is prescribed for two or three years.
In contrast, hormone therapy is given for life when used in metastatic prostate cancer.