Despite its name, hormone therapy is actually anti-hormonal. Their main action is to block the action of natural hormones in the body from stimulating the growth of cancer cells in breast and prostate cancers. Our bodies make the hormones estrogen and testosterone naturally. There help regulate our normal bodily functions. However, in someone with breast or prostate cancer, these hormones actually accelerate the growth of the cancer, thus blocking them makes an effective anti-cancer strategy.
For hormone-sensitive breast cancer, hormone therapy is usually given for 5 or 10 years following curative surgery and chemotherapy to further reduce the chance of relapse. Hormone therapy is also effective in controlling breast and prostate cancers that have already spread to other parts of the body. They do not have the same side effects as chemotherapy. With good patient education and counselling, their side effects can be minimized and managed.