Breaking Down Hormonal Therapy
- Hormonal therapies are commonly used to treat women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.
- Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors do not appear to compromise the patient’s immune system.
- Current evidence suggests that for patients without any history of autoimmune disease or other related conditions, hormonal therapies can be safely used.
If your type of cancer is fueled by estrogen then you may be be treated with a hormonal therapy. These therapies can be used in patients who are either pre-menopausal or post-menopausal, but the types of medication used will depend on menopausal status.
Types of Therapies
Tamoxifen is a selective estrogen receptor modulator – which means it works to prevent estrogen from helping cancer cells to grow. “It has traditionally been used for pre-menopausal women but is also used in post-menopausal women as well, and it blocks estrogen from interacting with the estrogen receptor,” says Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Read More
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many patients are understandably concerned that their cancer therapies may weaken their immune system and make them more vulnerable to be infected with the virus. But Dr. Comen says that based on the current evidence, it doesn’t seem like tamoxifen is compromising the immune system of patients with breast cancer. So what this means is that for women who have been taking tamoxifen for a year or more, and don’t have any history of any autoimmune problems or immune issues, they can be relatively rest-assured that they are not being immunocompromised. That also holds true for aromatase inhibitors, which is another hormone therapy used to treat hormone receptor-positive breast cancers. In postmenopausal women, they are also not likely to compromise your immune system. “So theoretically and from what we can see so far, they are not affecting a patient’s risk of being infected with COVID-19,” says Dr. Comen.
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Dr. Elizabeth Comen serves as a medical advisor to SurvivorNet. She is a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Read More