Q. I was diagnosed with DCIS , and have had a lumpectomy and radiation . Now my oncologist says I’ll be doing hormone therapy. I thought women with breast cancer weren’t supposed to do hormone therapy…? A. OK, you’re understandably confused. Hormone therapy is different than hormone REPLACEMENT therapy ( HRT ). HRT has been used for years to treat symptoms of menopause by increasing the level of certain hormones in your body, hormones whose level is dropping as your body slows down with age. HRT is NOT recommended for breast cancer survivors; and healthy women are cautioned about its use, since it’s been shown to raise the risk of breast cancer. Hormone therapy, on the other hand, is using drugs to block the production of hormones in your body, or to block the hormones’ ability to attach themselves to your cells. Certain types of breast cancer rely on hormones to grow. Without the necessary hormones, cancer cells die, and the spread of the disease is st...
Current or recent past users of hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Before the link between HRT use and breast cancer risk was established, many postmenopausal women took HRT for many years to ease menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, fatigue) and to reduce bone loss. Since 2002, when research linked HRT and risk, the number of women taking HRT has dropped dramatically. Still, many women continue to use HRT to handle bothersome menopausal symptoms.
There are two main types of HRT:
combination HRT contains the hormones estrogen and progesterone
estrogen-only HRT contains only estrogen
Each type of HRT seems to have a different effect on breast cancer risk.
Combination HRT increases breast cancer risk by about 75%, even when used for only a short time. Combination HRT also increases the likelihood that the cancer may be found at a more advanced stage, as well as increasing the risk that a woman diagnosed with breast cancer will die...
Dr. Ravdin et al published a very impressive article in this week's New England Journal of Medicine on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use and breast cancer rates.
They showed that the incidence (number of new cases) of breast cancer decreased in women who were 50 years of age or older from 2002 through the end of 2004.
They tie this to the decrease in postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy and note that the decrease was largely in the number of new cases of estrogen receptor positive (ER+) tumors.
The data on hormone replacement therapy and its relation to an increased incidence of breast cancer has been well publicized, although my latest take on the most recent iteration was that use for several years after menopause did not really increase the risk of breast cancer – that the increase was in women who had used hormone replacement therapy for 10 years or longer.
The hormone replacement therapy study is an interesting article and well thought out, and the au...
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