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Hormone Therapy

Hormone Therapy for Cancer

Hormones are chemicals that are produced by the organs in the endocrine system—the pancreas, and the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. Hormones are the body’s regulators, traveling throughout the body via the bloodstream to control and coordinate various tasks. Researchers have found that certain cancers rely on hormones as their source of fuel, but hormone therapy for cancer can slow or stop the growth of these types of cancers.

Hormones connect to receptors on the surface of cells in order to perform their designated jobs or deliver messages. Hormone therapies work by targeting the cell receptors or the hormone itself. These treatments are usually prescribed to people with breast or prostate cancer. Continue reading to learn more about what types of hormones serve as fuel for specific cancers.

Hormones that Affect Cancer Growth

  • Adrenaline
  • Insulin
  • Cortisol
  • Progesterone
  • Epinephrine
  • Serotonin
  • Estrogen
  • Testosterone

Types of Hormone Therapy

Block the Receptors

This type of hormone therapy puts another compound into the cell receptor so that the hormone cannot attach and activate the cell.

Prevent Production

Medications can stop the body from producing certain hormones. Alternatively, the organ that produces the hormone can be surgically removed.

Eliminate or Change Receptors

Some of these types of hormone therapies alter the shape of the receptors, and others remove the receptors entirely. Either way, the hormone can no longer properly attach and activate the cell.

Side Effects

Some side effects of hormone therapy are directly related to the specific hormone that is being affected by treatment. For women, the following side effects often feel similar to menopause.

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Weight gain
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Headaches

Other side effects are caused by the hormone therapy itself include: