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What are the categories of hormone therapy drugs?

Dede Bonner
Health Education
Tamoxifen (also called Nolvadex®). Tamoxifen has been the most widely prescribed and successful anti-estrogen therapy for breast cancer for more than twenty-five years. This anti-estrogen drug works by preventing estrogen in the body from attaching to breast cancer cells and encouraging them to grow. It decreases the chance that breast cancer will recur. Tamoxifen is used in early stage, pre-menopausal, advanced, and male breast cancers. Tamoxifen is also used to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women and is being studied as a treatment for other kinds of cancer. It is taken as a daily pill.

Aromatase inhibitors, also called anastrozole (Arimidex®), letrozole (Femara®), and exemestane (Aromasin®). Recently a new group of hormone therapy drugs, the aromatase inhibitors, has been developed that block estrogen from being made in the tissues of postmenopausal women. Aromatase inhibitors are used only in postmenopausal women. Research has shown that for some women, taking aromatase inhibitors instead of tamoxifen, or after a period of tamoxifen treatment, can further reduce the chance of their cancer coming back. An important consideration when choosing among different drugs is your pre-or postmenopausal status. The clearest indication of whether a woman should take tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor is her menstrual status. Prior to menopause, with most estrogen coming directly from the ovaries, aromatase inhibitors are insufficient to suppress natural estrogen, and tamoxifen will work best.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.