An important treatment for many breast cancer patients – called hormone therapy, or what I call anti-hormone therapy for reasons that will become clear – may have side effects that impact brain function – an issue that often gets overlooked.
The vast majority of breast cancers (60-80%) contain estrogen receptors (ERs), so they are referred to as ER-positive. Treatment for ER-positive breast cancer aims to block estrogens in one way or another. These treatments are referred to as hormone therapy.
ER-positive breast cancer patients may get hormone therapy for different reasons. For post-menopausal women, they may be given this treatment after surgery to try to keep the cancer from coming back. In premenopausal women, treatment is typically an estrogen receptor blocker.
While hormone therapy can be effective, as with most drugs, it may also cause possible side effects that can affect quality of life, which you and your oncologist should consider when choosing (or not-choosing) treatment.
An often-overlooked, and also understudied, side effect of hormone therapy is its negative impact on the brain. Research has shown that estrogen-blocking treatments may have a variety of side effects on the brain including possibly increasing the likelihood of depression and anxiety and decreasing verbal memory and fluency.… Continue reading →