A range of treatments are employed to combat breast and uterine cancers, including several that attempt to starve tumor-building cells of the natural estrogen they need to thrive. A common hormone therapy treatment is called a natural aromatase inhibitor, which actually stops the body from producing estrogen. Other treatments are needed, however, for women who have yet to reach the age of menopause.
Two varieties of a natural aromatase inhibitor can be prescribed. One type suspends the activity of a certain enzyme called aromatase, which is responsible for turning androgen into estrogen in the body. Another kind blocks estrogen more directly from entering the bloodstream. Beyond tumor excision, radiation or chemotherapy, natural aromatase inhibitor drugs are frequently prescribed to keep cancer from growing or reappearing in post-menopausal women. If the indirect inhibitors do not appear to be working, the more direct fulvestrant therapy is often used.
A natural aromatase inhibitor can go by a variety of names. The direct estrogen blocker is called fulvestrant, or Faslodex®. Indirect inhibitors go by the names anastrozole, exemestane and letrozole. Respectively, these have the brand names Arimidex®, Aromasin® and Femara®. All are typically taken once a day in pill form.
Another type of hormone therapy drug called tamoxifen is often used in concert with a natural aromatase inhibitor. These are not taken together, but rather in alternating periods. According to the Breast Cancer Diagnosis Guide at Breastcancer.org, doctors often start with a natural aromatase inhibitor since it has slightly fewer side effects. Many physicians also alternate each treatment every two or three years.
The side effects of tamoxifen are considered more serious in some women, including stroke, increased blood clots, and even the development of endometrial cancer in a small percentage. Aromatase therapy, however, could cause heart disorders and an increase in bone loss, known as osteoporosis. Doctors may prescribe a bone strengthening medicine to take in conjunction with aromatase inhibitors. More minor symptoms of this kind of hormone therapy are generalized stiffness in the muscles and joints.
Other more natural cancer treatments may be utilized to block estrogen action and combat breast of uterine cancers. One treatment called phytoestrogen is derived from plants and can lessen the amount of natural estrogen in the body. Other alternative therapies include the enzyme quercetin, most commonly found in apples and onions, and the flavenoid resveratrol, found in high concentrations in dark grapes.