This Navigator topic is your stepping stone to finding quality, current information on hormonal treatments (sometimes called endocrine therapies) for breast cancer, from a range of reputable sources.
This information is for women who have been diagnosed with hormone receptor positive early breast cancer and are faced with making decisions about treatment options, including hormonal treatments. Having access to quality information to help you make informed decisions is important.
Note that this information is not a substitute for medical advice. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking.Always consult your treating team for advice on your specific diagnosis and treatment.
In this Navigator topic the term “hormonal treatments” is used to avoid confusion with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is not a cancer treatment. HRT involves the prescription of oestrogen to a woman after she reaches menopause to alleviate symptoms of menopause.
Hormonal treatments for breast cancer (also called endocrine therapies) involve a range of treatments for patients who have hormone (oestrogen and/or progesterone) receptors on their breast cancer cells.
The types of therapy recommended will depend on whether you have reached menopause.
Testing for hormone receptors
Testing for hormone receptors on breast cancer cells is part of routine pathology testing following surgery for breast cancer. If your breast cancer cells are oestrogen and/or progesterone receptor positive, this will be indicated in your pathology report. There are resources in this Navigator topic to assist you to make sense of your pathology report.
The information in your pathology report will also be a useful in helping you make decisions about your breast cancer treatment. Many factors will influence what treatment you have. It is always best to discuss your report in conjunction with your oncologist in order to fully understand the issues specific to your situation.
“Some side effects are common to all hormonal therapies, and some only happen with certain therapies. Everyone is different in how they respond to treatment…All hormonal treatments can cause menopausal symptoms” (Cancer Australia, 2012)
Committing to treatment
Sticking with hormonal treatments for breast cancer is a long-term commitment that can be very challenging at times and for different reasons, such as side effects. Hormonal treatments may be recommended for at least five years, and sometimes ten years to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Some of the resources in this Navigator topic have information about the challenges of sticking with treatment and strategies to assist.
Having access to comprehensive information about your treatment options, and being able to discuss them with your medical oncologist or breast care nurse can help you feel confident about your decisions.
Talking to other women who have had hormonal treatments for breast cancer can also be useful. While everyone’s experience of hormonal treatment is different, our experience at Counterpart is that women find it valuable to connect with other women who have had a similar experience. This can help normalise feelings and anxieties, and offer ways of coping.
The purpose of this navigator is to guide you to information about hormonal treatments for breast cancer. This information is not meant to be a replacement for consultations with and recommendations from your treating team, but rather to provide a starting point to information seeking. If you are unsure about anything, you should always consult your medical team.
When making decisions about hormonal treatments for hormone receptor positive breast cancer, you may wish to consider the following questions. These questions may help you decide about the treatment of your breast cancer. You might want the answers to some of the questions straight away, while some may become important later on. You can either ask these questions directly, or use them as a guide to put together your own questions.
These listings provide links to the websites of organisations which include a particular focus on hormonal treatments for early breast cancer. The link will direct you to the organisation’s home page where you can search their site independently. The information on these websites is evidence-based and the sites may subscribe to a reputable online health information standard such as the HONcode .
ChemoCare is a US based organisation with information on a wide range of drugs associated with chemotherapy and hormonal treatments. Under "Drug information" you will find a list of many of the hormonal treatments used in Australia.
A website of the Federal Government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme including details of the medicines subsidised by the Australian Government. It contains information for consumers, carers, health professionals and provides standard pricing information for hormonal treatments to treat breast cancer.
On this page is a range of evidence-based information directly related to hormonal treatments for early breast cancer. The list includes downloadable fact sheets, pamphlets, or PDFs and web pages. The information on these websites includes evidence-based information by organisations that may subscribe to reputable online health information standards such as the HONcode.
Formerly the My Journey Kit, this tool is now online. Sign up to access information that can be tailored to your own situation. Find information on hormone treatments under the Treatment section.
This web page outlines how hormonal treatment works with comprehensive information about side effects and managing them.
The Hormone Therapy section of this web page gives a really good overview of the types of hormonal treatments and their side effects.
Information on hormone treatments for breast cancer begins on page 46 of this PDF booklet.
In this webinar recording, Dr Shirley Wong, a Consultant Medical Oncologist, discusses hormonal treatments and Herceptin, how they work, their limitations and who they are used for.
A page on the website of Breast Cancer Now (formerly Breast Cancer Care UK). This page provides information on hormone treatment for early breast cancer. It includes links to information on individual hormonal treatments such as Tamoxifen, Zoladex, Faslodex and aromatase inhibitors.
Treatment for cancer can lead to menopause happening earlier in a woman’s life than would normally be expected. Early menopause may be associated with a complex mix of physical, emotional, psychological and social changes and challenges. An expert panel of speakers present on and discuss this topic. This session is presented in partnership with Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation.
Information for women who have experienced menopausal symptoms following breast cancer treatment. Describes physical and emotional changes that may be experienced.
A fact sheet produced by BCNA that helps to understand your pathology report. It includes a section on how to determine whether the growth of your breast cancer is affected by hormones and which ones.
While the information on his web page is US-focused, it does provide a clear overivew of hormonal therapies for breast cancer, including pre- and post-menopausal women, decision making, and answers to some frequently asked questions.
A web page on the site of Breastcancer.org in the US with extensive information about how hormonal treatments work and an explanation of different treatments including aromatase inhibitors and SERMS. It includes a link to a side effects comparison chart to help you document any side effects and a useful link to the most up to date research on hormonal treatments.
A page on the website of BreastCancer.Org that discusses the challenges of the long-term commitment often required in taking hormonal treatment medicines and strategies for how you can stay on track.
A web page outlining the range of aromatase inhibitors, available to post-menopausal women, and how they work. Listed by the generic names for Arimidex, Aromasin and Femara.
Use the search box to find Consumer Medicine Information (CMI) sheets on drugs you have been prescribed. These explain the use, administration and side effects of each drug.
This booklet is about ovarian suppression. It includes what it is, how is it achieved and when it is likely to be used. It also discusses common side effects and how to cope with them.
This is a list of hard copy resources such as books and CDs that are not readily available online.
British authors Professor Trish Greenhalgh and Dr Liz O'Riordan both have medical backgrounds, and were both diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. This book describes their unique personal experiences from diagnosis to life after treatment.
Greenhalgh, T; O'Riordan, L, London: Vermillion, 2018
An Australian book about breast cancer with a chapter on hormonal treatments. It includes a flowchart that helps you understand whether or not hormonal treatment might be useful for you and which ones. It includes good pictures explaining oestrogen production and how hormonal treatments work.
Boyages, J., Beecroft, NSW: Boycare Publishing, 2010
This list includes websites containing personal stories both written and visual format. They include blogs and online forums. The information contained in these links reflects the personal experiences of individuals and does not constitute evidence-based research or information.
Liz O'Riordan, a breast surgeon who blogs about her own breast cancer experiences at Breast Surgeon With Breast Cancer, describes her reaction to Tamoxifen and Zoladex. (see also, Liz O'Riordan's book under 'Offline resources' above.)
Counterpart is a unique free information and support service for Victorian women living with breast or gynaecological cancers. You can speak with trained peer support volunteers who have experienced cancer themselves.
Cancer Council's online support network for people living with cancer. There are online forums and blogs. You can type hormonal treatments into the search function to find discussions about this, and other topics.
An online network of Australia’s peak national consumer organisation for those affected by breast cancer. It includes discussions by individuals and groups of people in similar situations including those who have experienced hormonal treatments. You need to register to join, however you can type hormonal treatments in the search engine to get a feel for the discussions that are taking place.
An Australian website that provides a forum for people with breast cancer and those affected by breast cancer, to share on a range of different topics. It contains a number of discussions about hormonal treatment drugs.
A US based breast cancer online forum which includes discussions about hormonal treatment.
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