Over the past several years it has been well documented that the hormones found within the body, and subsequently activated during puberty to control a women’s menstrual cycle, can play an important role in breast cancer.
In fact about 70% of breast cancers are sensitive to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Cancerous tumors have a switch called a hormone receptor which can essentially be “turned on” by both estrogen and progesterone to accelerate the growth of cancer cells.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your doctor will run a series of tests which may include a biopsy to determine if your tumor has hormone receptors. Your doctor may use the terms hormone-receptor positive, ER-positive or PR-positive.
If your tumor is very advanced, your doctor will repeat testing to both monitor the cancer and to ensure that the correct treatment protocol is being used to effectively treat the disease regardless of the stage.
How Does Hormone Receptor Positive Breast Cancer Differ from Other Types?
When compared with other types of breast cancer, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer has a tendency to:
• Grow at a slower rate
• Respond positively to hormone therapy
Fine Needle Aspiration & Core Needle Biopsy to Test for Hormone Receptors
If your cancer is advanced, your doctor will remove a small section of tumor for biopsy. This can be done using a procedure called aspiration where a very fine needle is used to remove cells from the infected tissue or a small section of cancerous tissue may be removed (biopsied) during surgery. Lab tests will indicate if the sample taken has hormone receptors.
Estrogen, Progesterone & Hormone Receptor Positive & Negative Cancers
Cancer cells may test positive for estrogen receptors which your doctor may refer to as ER-positive or ER+ cancers. Progesterone receptors are referred to as PR- or PR+ cancers.
If your cells test positive for both estrogen and progesterone receptors your doctor will use the term hormone-responsive HR+ to describe them. If your sample tests negative for both estrogen and progesterone receptors, your doctor will refer to your result as being hormone negative or HR-.
Hormone Receptor Tests Results, Allred Score & Cancer Treatment Options
Your available treatment options will depend on the results of your test. Your test results will indicate if your cancer is positive meaning it is sensitive to hormones or negative, meaning your cancer is not sensitive to hormones.
Your test results will also include a percentage out of 100 cells that have hormone receptors. For example 0% means that none of the cells have receptors while 100% means that all of the cells have them. Your results will also include an “allred score” numbered between 0 and 8.
This test indicates how many cells are HR-positive along with how well the cells appear in the lab test (intensity). Your doctor will explain the results to you in detail along with any changes he or she decides to make in treatment options.
HR, ER or PR Positive Breast Cancer
If your breast cancer is found to be HR positive, your doctor may prescribe medication as part of your treatment protocol. The medications will target a certain type of hormone produced by your body while others may block the effect of hormones within the breast tissue or other parts of the body where the cancer may have spread.
As a general rule of thumb, the more positive receptors that you have and the higher the intensity, the more likely that hormone treatments will work for your specific case. If your cancer only tests positive to either estrogen (ER-positive) or progesterone (PR-positive) but does not test positive for both, your cancer may still respond to hormone treatments.
If your cancer is both estrogen and progesterone negative, hormone therapy is unlikely to have an effect. Your doctor will discuss the treatment options available to you and which are best for your individual case.
3D Mammograms & Ultrasounds to Detect Breast Cancer Early in Athens-Oconee, Watkinsville & Eagles Landing, Stockbridge, Georgia
Early detection of breast cancer is the key to a successful treatment program. For more information regarding 2D/3D digital mammography and 3D whole breast ultrasounds, contact the knowledgeable and experienced professionals at Women’s Imaging Specialists today.