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Hormones are nature’s chemical messengers. They act to regulate body functions and control the growth of normal cells. However, sometimes hormones can do harm. Most breast cancers have receptors that respond to certain hormones in the blood. These can drive the cancer cells to grow faster and increase the risk of the disease spreading.

Breast cancer cells often contain receptors for the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The specialists at The London Clinic can provide therapies to block or remove these hormones, potentially slowing down the growth of the tumour, reducing the risk of spread and preventing the cancer recurring.

Understanding your treatment

Following the biopsy or removal of your breast cancer, The London Clinic’s expert pathologists will analyse the tumour and check for the presence of receptors. If your cancer is positive for one or more of these, you may be given treatment to block the hormones. This can decrease the risk of breast cancer coming back, reduce the size of your tumour or treat breast cancer that has recurred.

Three receptors are commonly found: Most breast cancers are stimulated by oestrogen, in fact 70% of tumours have receptors for this hormone, known as ER+. Many cancers also have receptors to progesterone (PR+) with 65% of cancers being positive for both hormones. Endocrine therapy, can block the effect of hormones on breast cancer cells.

The final receptor, is found on all cells. Her2 controls cell growth and repair, but it is present in high numbers in 1 in 5 breast cancers. This can fuel the cancer’s growth and spread. Her2 can be blocked by immune therapy, with a drug called Herceptin.®

The London Clinic’s specialist oncologists will discuss whether hormone therapy is appropriate for your cancer. The potential side effects will be explained to you and your oncologist will answer any questions you may have.

Treatment facts

Several medications can be used to block the effects of oestrogen. For women who have not had their menopause, the decrease in oestrogen can lead to the sudden onset of menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, vaginal dryness and mood swings. Your specialist can advise you on managing these.

Tamoxifen is the most well know hormonal treatment for breast cancer, it has been used for decades to prevent cancer coming back in pre-menopausal women. Tamoxifen blocks the oestrogen receptors on the cancer cells, stopping the hormone stimulating growth. It is given regularly as a tablet and is usually taken for 5 to 10 years.

Aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole and exemestane, also decrease oestrogen levels by stopping the body making the hormone. They can reduce the amount of oestrogen circulating in the blood to very low levels and are effective for use in women after the menopause. You will also be offered a bone density scan whilst having this treatment to monitor your bone health as it can for some patients make the bones thinner and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Oestrogen receptor down-regulators, such as fulvestrant, are used in post-menopausal women with advanced breast cancer. It blocks oestrogen receptors on breast cancer cells and also knocks out many of the receptors so the cancer cell is less responsive to circulating hormones.

Luteinising hormone releasing hormone (LNRH) blockers: Drugs like goserilin stop the pituitary gland releasing luteinising hormone. This hormone normally stimulates the ovaries to produce oestrogen. LHRH blockers stop the signal getting through to the ovaries, so that less oestrogen is produced. Once stopped the effects are reversed.

Treatment recovery

The effectiveness of each treatment will depend on the size and stage of the cancer, the type of tumour, the presence of receptors and your general health and wellbeing. At The London Clinic, your consultant surgeon, your expert oncologist, specialist nurse and the multidisciplinary team are committed to maintaining your physical health and your mental wellbeing. From diagnosis to hormone therapy and follow-up appointments, they will support you and your family, every step of the way.

Why choose the London Clinic?

The London Clinic is dedicated to providing the best, personalised healthcare with over 600 world-renowned consultants available to offer informed health advice and treatment.

Spanning Harley Street and Devonshire Place, The London Clinic is situated in the heart of London’s internationally-known medical district. This central location, together with state-of-the-art technologies and facilities that are not widely available in other hospitals, makes The London Clinic the hospital of choice for around 120,000 patients every year.

Offering affordable and competitive self-pay packages and expert support from Clinical Nurse Specialists and our specialised multidisciplinary team, 98% of our patients said they would recommend The London Clinic to their friends and families

Treatment cost

The London Clinic offers affordable, competitive self-pay packages for certain treatments.

Please call +44 (0)20 3613 7502 to speak to our helpful team to find out more and to book an appointment.

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