Saint Alphonsus Health System

Hormonal Therapy

Treatments for cancer are grouped into two major categories—local and systemic. Local therapies include surgery and radiation therapy. Systemic therapies (meaning those therapies that treat the entire body) include chemotherapy and hormonal therapy. Hormonal therapies change the hormonal environment in the body, which, in turn, has an impact on the growth and behavior of some breast cancers.

Hormonal therapy is useful if a particular person's cancer makes one of the hormone receptors, estrogen or progesterone. If either of these hormone receptors is positive, then hormone therapies can be used to treat early stage cancer, to prevent recurrence and to treat metastatic or advanced cancer.

Once the hormone receptor status is known (from a biopsy or surgery), the issues considered include:

  • What is my risk of a recurrence with local therapy (surgery, radiation) alone?
  • How much can hormonal therapy reduce my risk of recurrence?
  • What are the side effects and risks associated with hormonal therapy?
  • What is the balance of benefit and risk?

Please talk with your physician about whether hormonal therapy is recommended for you. If you are considering a particular hormonal therapy, please read the specific information sheet for that drug. It will answer questions about how to take the medication, dosage and potential side effects. Your physician or nurse can answer any specific questions you may have.