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Understanding Breast Cancer -- Diagnosis & Treatment

What Are the Treatments for Breast Cancer? continued...

Tamoxifen is effective in pre- and post-menopausal women.

Other types of hormone therapy are called aromatase inhibitors -- examples are anastrozole, letrozole, and exemestane. They block the production of estrogen in the body by preventing conversion of testosterone to estrogen, thus lowering the levels of estrogen in the blood. Aromatase inhibitors only work in postmenopausal women and are superior to tamoxifen in postmenopausal  women, with breast cancer.

While on tamoxifen, you should continue to have your yearly pelvic exams, and notify your doctor of any unusual bleeding or pain. The typical length of time you will take tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors is five to 10 years.

Sometimes a treatment called ovarian ablation is used to treat breast cancer. Ovarian ablation means making the ovaries of a premenopausal woman nonfunctional, either by removing them with surgery, by treating the ovaries with radiation, or by blocking the pituitary hormone that makes the ovaries function with the use of a group of drugs known as LHRH or GnRH agonists.

Biological Therapy for Breast Cancer

Biological therapyis a newer approach to fight cancer. In about 25% of women with breast cancer, an excess of a protein known as HER2 makes the cancer spread more quickly. There are several biological therapies that are used to fight HER2-positive breast cancer. Options include Herceptin, Perjeta, Tykerb, and Kadcyla.  These may be used along with other medicines. For HER2-negative breast cancers, Afinitor can be used to treat women with advanced, hormone-receptor positive breast cancer.

At-Home Recovery

After breast cancer surgery, a regular routine of simple exercises will help to restore your mobility and reduce muscle stiffness. To minimize potential discomfort from radiation, avoid wearing a tight-fitting bra or clothes that may irritate the area. Keep your skin clean and well ventilated, and use only those skin lotions, creams, and deodorants recommended by your doctor.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 12, 2014

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