Hormonal therapies act by altering the production of particular hormones in the body. They are most commonly used to treat breast cancer and prostate cancer.
- There are several different types of hormonal therapy and the type given depends on the cancer being treated.
- Hormonal therapy may be given before radiotherapy, and sometimes before surgery - this is known as neo-adjuvant therapy.
- It is also sometimes given after either radiotherapy or surgery, which is known as adjuvant therapy. The aim is to reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.
In order to grow, prostate cancer depends on the hormone testosterone, produced by the testicles. Hormonal therapies can reduce the amount of testosterone in the body.
They are given as injections or tablets, or occasionally an operation will be done to remove the part of the testicles that produces testosterone.
Most breast cancers need the hormone oestrogen in order to grow. Hormonal therapy is very effective in reducing the amount of oestrogen in the body, and is used to try to prevent the cancer from returning after surgery.
Hormonal therapy may also be used to shrink the cancer if it returns after initial surgery.