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How endocrine therapy for cancer works

September 21, 2022

Illustration of a doctor placing their arm around a breast cancer patient

Certain cancers—like breast cancer—are deeply affected by hormones. In order to stop cancer growth from occurring or to at least slow it down, there are treatments that exist that can alter or block the hormones. This type of treatment is most commonly referred to as hormone therapy or endocrine therapy (sometimes also referred to as hormonal therapy). For the sake of lowering confusion throughout this blog post, we’re going to move forward using the term endocrine therapy. 

Keep reading for a breakdown of what endocrine therapy for breast cancer (and all cancers) is, how it works, and when breast cancer patients may encounter it. 

Endocrine Therapy Definition

Endocrine therapy is classified as a systemic treatment. It involves targeted hormones that circulate in the body. The endocrine therapy drugs used in the course of treatment travel throughout the body in order to find hormones and target them—which means this type of treatment can affect the entire body unlike radiation or surgery which are targeted therapies. This type of treatment only becomes localized if surgery is used to remove hormone-making organs.

Endocrine therapy can stop the body from creating the hormone that causes cancer growth or can block the hormone from attaching to cancer cells. This type of therapy can also alter the hormone so it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to and can lessen some cancer symptoms. 

These are some examples of endocrine therapy used to treat breast cancer:

When endocrine therapy occurs

There are a few different times when a breast cancer patient may encounter endocrine therapy for cancer treatment. 

Getting endocrine therapy

There are a few types of ways that endocrine therapy can be administered to patients. 

Your doctor and care team will help you determine if endocrine therapy is the right course of treatment for you. Learn more about your treatment options by using Outcomes4Me!