How is hormone therapy used in oncology?

Hormone therapy is used in oncology to stop the growth of some types of cancers. Some types of cancerous cells need certain hormones in order to reproduce. Hormone therapy is a way for oncologists to stop cancerous cells from receiving the hormones they need to reproduce. Drugs may be administered, or a surgeon may remove organs that produce the hormones in question, such as the testicles or ovaries.
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Hormones are chemicals produced by various glands in the body. They circulate in the bloodstream, and some hormones can affect the way certain cancers grow. Hormones that can stimulate cancer include:
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Testosterone
Hormone therapy blocks the production or the effects of these hormones and helps stop the cancer from growing. Treatment may include the use of drugs that change the way hormones work or surgery to remove the ovaries or the testicles in order to stop hormone production.
Hormone therapy is not appropriate for all disease types. At this time, hematologists/oncologists at Penn Medicine use hormone therapy to treat breast cancer and prostate cancer.


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