Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers use hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) in the body to grow. Oestrogen is the main hormone that helps breast cancers to grow, and progesterone may affect the growth of some breast cancers.
About 70 to 80 per cent of breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive.
Breast cancer cells may contain special proteins called hormone receptors. These receptors receive messages from the hormones and respond by telling the cells what to do. All breast cancers are tested to see if they are hormone receptor-positive. This is done using a sample of breast tissue that is removed during a biopsy or surgery.
Testing for hormone receptors is important because the information helps your doctor decide whether your breast cancer will respond to hormone-blocking therapy or other treatments. If your cancer has no hormone receptors it is called hormone receptor-negative and, therefore, hormone-blocking therapies will not be of any benefit. Other treatments will be more suitable for you.
The breast tissue is also tested to see whether it is “HER2-positive”. The HER2-positive breast cancers have a higher-than-normal amount of the protein called HER2 (e.g. human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) on the surface of the cancer cells. The HER2 proteins stimulate the cancer cells to divide and grow. If the cancer has HER2 and both types of hormone receptors, it is sometimes called triple positive breast cancer. For more information about HER2-positive breast cancer and its treatment, read HER2-positive breast cancer.
Testing for hormone receptors is important because the information helps your doctor decide whether your breast cancer will respond to hormone-blocking therapy or other treatments.
Treatment for hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer may involve:
If your breast cancer is hormone receptor-positive, hormone-blocking treatment will usually be recommended after you have finished your other breast cancer treatment (e.g. surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy). Sometimes hormone-blocking treatment is offered before surgery – this is called neoadjuvant therapy.
There are many different types of breast cancer, and each one is treated differently. Talking to your treating team for information, advice and support is important.
Some people find the support of others who have breast cancer helpful, as they share similar experiences. Our Online Network may help you connect with others in the same situation.
Read Cancer Council's booklet Understanding breast cancer.
Visit My Journey, BCNA’s online tool for information tailored to your diagnosis.
Join our Online Network if you think that talking to others online and sharing experiences will help.
Contact BCNA’s Helpline on 1800 500 258 between 9.00 am and 5.00 pm AEST Monday to Friday, for information about the services and support that may be available for you and your family.
Conference for people affected by metastatic breast cancer
People often use complementary therapies to manage side effects and to improve wellbeing but discuss these with your treatment team first
Chemotherapy through a drip or in a tablet is common to control or slow metastatic breast cancer, relieve symptoms and improve quality of life
Drug treatments for early breast cancer may be recommended before surgery. This is called neoadjuvant therapy and has multiple benefits
Hormone-blocking therapies may be used in treatment. Understand which type is right for you, how it works, and possible side effects
Treatment types vary, depending on the type of metastatic breast cancer and where it has spread. Understand the options
If you choose alternative therapies that are unproven, instead of conventional breast cancer treatment, discuss this with your doctor