Oestrogen receptor positive
Another test which is carried out on your cancer cells by the pathologist is to see whether your cancer cells have hormonal receptors. If your cancer cells have receptors for oestrogen then you will have what is called oestrogen receptor positive (or ER +ve) breast cancer. If your cancer cells have receptors for progesterone then you will have progesterone receptor positive breast cancer. If your breast cancer is oestrogen negative, progesterone negative and HER2 -ve then you have what is called “triple negative breast cancer”.
Around 70% of breast cancers are ER +ve. They respond well to hormonal therapies.
There are various hormonal therapies which are given to you as injections or tablets. Your oncologist prescribes the most suitable one taking into account a number of factors about you and your cancer. There are a number of differences between the therapies, such as: dosage, how they are administered, side effects and length of treatment.
The hormonal therapies (with links to more information about each) are:
The Breast Cancer Care website has full information on hormonal therapies in general and also for each of the therapies (see the links above). The website also has booklets on each therapy which can be downloaded or ordered – search on this page for the one you wish to read or order.
Reducing your exposure to “oestrogen” in the environment
With ER+ve breast cancer the hormone oestrogen can stimulate the breast cancer to grow. Hormone therapy aims to block the effect of oestrogen on cancer cells. There are a number of substances in the environment that mimic oestrogen or cause oestrogen levels in the body to increase. And there is A LOT of discussion going on in the scientific community and the breast cancer community about whether these environmental substances contribute to breast cancer. Some of it is rather controversial (even among breast cancer patients).
Now I am not a scientist nor an expert in this field so I am not going to say whether this is correct or not. If you are so inclined, you can read up on all the facts yourself and come to your own conclusion (links at the foot of this section). However, what I would say is that at the very least there are a lot of nasty synthetic substances out there (in food, cosmetics, skin care, household cleaning products and more) which are not doing our bodies any good. I have taken the decision to embrace a more natural, organic lifestyle and eliminate these nasties from my life as much as I can. This is a personal choice and one for you to make yourself.
HELPFUL RESOURCES AND MORE INFORMATION
There is a lot of information on the web; it is difficult to extract the “decent” stuff. I would start with Breast Cancer UK which raises awareness about the links between harmful chemicals in the environment and breast cancer. They also support scientific research into this and campaign for improvements to legislation.
QUICK TIP: If you are taking one of the daily tablets, you may find that the combination of chemo brain + menopausal fog means that you (like me) forget to take your daily tablet, or have no idea whether you have taken it! A simple way to help you with this is to use a sharpie and write the days of the week on the foil of the tablet packet.