One way to slow the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer in premenopausal women is ovarian suppression. Ovarian suppression uses medical treatments to shut down ovary function to stop them from making estrogen. This stops menstrual periods and lowers hormone levels in the body (similar to a natural menopause), so the tumor cannot get the estrogen it needs to grow.
Ovarian suppression is only an option for premenopausal women. It is not helpful in postmenopausal women because the ovaries do not make much estrogen after menopause.
Ovarian suppression drugs such as leuprolide (Lupron) or goserelin (Zoladex) can temporarily stop the production of estrogen by the ovaries. In most cases, once drug therapy is stopped, the ovaries begin making estrogen again. This helps women avoid early menopause.
To learn more about a specific ovarian suppression drug, visit the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus website.
Ovarian suppression can also be achieved by surgical removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy). This permanently stops the production of estrogen and progesterone (thus, permanently ending menstrual periods), which leads to early menopause.
Learn more about early menopause and how to manage its symptoms.
Among premenopausal women, some studies have found ovarian suppression drug therapies to be as effective as chemotherapy in treating hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer . However, standard treatment for these breast cancers is tamoxifen, with or without chemotherapy.
It is not yet clear if any type of ovarian suppression (with drugs or surgery) adds benefit when combined with standard treatment. This question is being addressed in ongoing clinical trials. However, in some cases, health care providers may recommend ovarian suppression in addition to standard treatment for hormone receptor-positive breast cancers.
Facts for Life: Hormone Therapy
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