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Breast Cancer

Hormone Receptor Status in Breast Cancer

In addition to understanding the type of breast cancer and the stage, it’s critical that your oncologist knows which hormones, if any, are involved in the growth of the breast cancer. The results play a role in creating the best treatment plan for you.

The hormone receptor status of your breast cancer refers to whether your breast cancer cells are fueled by estrogen and/or progesterone, naturally occurring hormones in both women and men. Due to special proteins inside the tumor cells, called hormone receptors, the hormones attach to the tumor cells and fuel the cancer’s growth.

Breast cancer patients are given either hormone receptor status that is either hormone receptor (HR) positive or hormone receptor (HR) negative:

  • Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer means that the cancer cells have the protein in or on them that attracts estrogen, progesterone, or both hormones.
  • Hormone receptor-negative breast cancer means that no estrogen or progesterone receptors are present. These types of cancers will not benefit from hormone therapy drugs and typically grow faster than HR-positive cancers.

Hormone Receptor Categories of Breast Cancer

Your oncology team will run tests and give you at least one of the following hormone receptor categories:

  • Estrogen-receptor positive (ER+): This means that breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormone estrogen. ER+ results suggest that the cancer cells may receive signals from estrogen that could promote their growth.
  • Progesterone-receptor positive (PR+): This means that breast cancer cells have receptors for the hormone progesterone. PR+ results mean that the cancer cells may receive signals from progesterone that could promote their growth.
  • HER2 positive or negative: HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) is a protein that appears on the surface of some breast cancer cells. A special test is done to determine whether this protein is present, indicating that the breast cancer could grow and spread quickly. About 1 in f 5 women test positive for HER2. An excess of the HER2 gene is considered HER2-positive whereas HER2-negative results show that there is not an excess of the HER2 gene.
  • Triple-negative: These breast cancer cells test negative for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and HER2. Triple-negative breast cancer will be treated differently than the other types of breast cancer since hormones are not playing a role in the breast cancer’s growth.

Hormone Therapies and Targeted Therapies for Breast Cancer

Several unique breast cancer treatments have been developed to specifically counteract ER+, PR+ and HER2+ breast cancers.

If your breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive (ER+ and PR+), your treatment will typically include hormone therapy. Hormone therapy is designed to block the receptors on the cancer cells from attracting the hormone. This slows the growth of the cancer.

If your cancer has tested positive for HER2, it is likely that your breast cancer will grow and spread more aggressively. To slow the growth, it will likely be treated with targeted therapy. Clinical research has recently made available several targeted therapies for breast cancer patients that specifically block the growth of the HER2 protein, slowing the growth of the cancer.

Knowing both your hormone receptor and HER2 status will help the oncologists at Cancer Care Centers of Brevard create the best treatment plan for you.