Breast Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Table of Contents

Quick GuideBreast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

Should I stop taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after a breast cancer diagnosis?

Breast cells are programmed to respond to certain hormones as signals for growth and multiplication. The most prominent examples of these hormones are estrogens and progesterone. Many breast-cancer cells retain hormone receptors (molecular configurations on the cell surface to which the hormones bind). The hormone receptors, therefore, make the cancer cells responsive to these particular hormones.

In general, taking hormones is not recommended if a diagnosis of breast cancer is under consideration. This does not necessarily mean that you can never resume hormone replacement therapy. This issue is generally reconsidered after the completion of your evaluation and treatment. You should consult with your physician before you stop or start any new medications.

Even though my breast tumor does not have hormone receptors, should I take tamoxifen to reduce the risk of a new tumor?

Following completion of your treatment for breast cancer, whether or not tamoxifen (Nolvadex) is prescribed should at least be addressed. In many cases, the primary breast cancer for which the patient is being treated may not be hormone-receptor positive. In these cases, tamoxifen (which binds to the estrogen receptor in place of estrogen) is not generally part of the treatment protocol.

However, the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (a study of the use of tamoxifen) demonstrated a significant reduction in the development of new cancers in the opposite breast in patients who were treated with tamoxifen. So, the possible use and benefits of tamoxifen should not be ignored. A thoughtful evaluation of all the factors in a particular case will lead to a recommendation which balances the benefits of tamoxifen against the potential risks. Your treatment team should address this issue with you.

Reviewed on 6/23/2016
References
REFERENCE:

Shield, Kevin D., et al. "Alcohol Use and Breast Cancer: A Critical Review." Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research Apr. 30, 2016.

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