Targeted and Hormonal Therapy
At MedStar Health, our breast and gynecological cancer teams recommend advanced cancer treatments for appropriate patients. Short-term and long-term therapies for breast cancer are integrated into your daily life. Your doctors will work to find the solutions with the fewest side effects and the best chance for long-term health.
Targeted therapies, also called biological therapies or biologics, use medications to weaken or damage specific characteristics of cancer cells. Unlike chemotherapy drugs, these medications are less likely to affect healthy cells, so you may experience fewer side effects. In some cases, targeted therapy is used in combination with chemotherapy. Targeted therapies work in many different ways:
- Since cancer cells divide and grow at an abnormal rate, one therapy focuses on blocking the signal that tells the cancer cells to grow.
- As cancer cells often override natural cell death, in a sense, becoming immortal, other therapies interfere with this trait.
- Targeted therapies can also make the cancer cells more recognizable to your own immune system, which can then seek out and destroy the abnormal cells.
Hormonal therapy can be an effective treatment only for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, often in combination with surgery. Hormonal therapy reduces the amount of estrogen in the body or blocks its action. (Estrogen makes hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer grow.)
A complete pathological evaluation of your breast cancer will reveal if hormonal therapy is a possible treatment for you.
The goal of hormonal therapy is to prevent cancer recurrence after early-stage breast cancer surgery, shrink tumors in late-stage breast cancer patients, and, in some cases, as a risk-reduction strategy to lower the chances of high-risk women developing breast cancer. It is a long-term treatment and may be prescribed for several years, with most medications taken on a daily basis at home.
Please note: Hormonal therapy should not be confused with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which contains estrogen and is used to treat symptoms of menopause, not cancer.