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Glossary on

Hormone therapy

Some types of cancer may be sensitive to the effects of hormones, and may respond to a type of treatment known as hormone therapy (also called hormonal or endocrine therapy). Hormone therapy may work by: 

  • decreasing the amount of hormone produced by the body or by cancer cells; examples include aromatase inhibitors used for breast cancer, , such as leuprolide (Lupron) or goserelen (Zoladex), used for cancer, and other cancer medications that lower hormone levels, such as .
  • blocking cancer cells from using hormones made by the body; examples include medications called selective receptor modulators (SERMs) such as tamoxifen or raloxifene, selective receptor degraders (SERMs) such as Fulvestrant (faslodex) and Oserdu (elacestrant) and androgen receptor blockers such as , apalutamide or darolutamide.

Oncologists can choose from many different types of hormone therapy. Hormone therapy may be used alone or combined with other types of treatments. Each therapy has different uses and side effects. The choice of hormone therapy may depend on the following:

  • Your cancer type: Some types of cancer, such as breast and cancer, are often treated with hormone therapy. 
  • Your cancer subtype: Tests may be available to learn if your cancer is sensitive to hormones. This is particularly true for breast cancer, where all tumors are tested to see if they are sensitive to the hormones or progesterone. 
  • How the cancer responded to previous treatments: If your cancer grows or comes back after hormone therapy, your oncologist may choose a different type of treatment. cancer that returns or grows after hormone therapy is called "" or CRPC. 

Hormone therapy is most often given as by injection or as a pill.  

Paying For Care
Paying For Care

Paying for cancer treatment

The majority of public and private health insurance plans are required to cover cancer diagnosis and treatment; copays, coinsurance and deductibles often apply. Patient costs and coverage for specific doctors, facilities or treatments may vary based on your health plan. Visit our section on Insurance and Paying for Care: Treatment  for more information, links to sample appeal letters and other resources. 

If you need information about finding an insurance plan, watch our video: Choosing Wisely: How to Pick Insurance Plans.

Some pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs that help cover the cost for their medications: 

Organizations that offer co-pay assistance:

Other resources:

  • The American Cancer Society provides information and resources on covering the cost of cancer care. Public assistance, such as Medicaid may be available if you are ineligible for other programs. 
  • Needy Meds: Assistance programs to help patients with cost of medications and other healthcare.
  • Triage Cancer offers tools and resources to help individuals cope with the financial aspects of a cancer diagnosis.
Last updated July 17, 2022