Hormone Receptors Explained

Kevin R. Fox, MD
Last Modified: October 27, 2002

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Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I was told that my cancer is hormone receptor positive. Please explain what that means.  


Kevin R. Fox, MD, Assistant Director, Clinical Affairs and Associate Professor of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, responds:

Hormone receptors are proteins that most breast cancers possess. The presence of these proteins means that the cancer requires estrogen for its growth. Cancers that contain these estrogen receptors are often slower growing and spread less often than cancers that do not contain estrogen receptors. Most importantly, patients with breast cancers that contain estrogen receptors can take the drug tamoxifen, which attacks these receptors, and can keep the cancer from spreading.

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