What is hormone-positive breast cancer?

Hormone-positive breast cancer is a type of breast cancer that grows in response to female hormones. These breast cancer cells have receptors, a type of protein, that attach to the hormones. The cancer cells need these hormones to grow.

  • Estrogen receptor-positive (ER positive) breast cancers are those that have estrogen receptors
  • Progesterone receptor-positive (PR positive) breast cancers are those have progesterone receptors
  • Hormone receptor-positive are breast cancers that have one or both of these receptors

Stopping the hormones from attaching to the receptors can help keep the tumor from growing. Most breast cancers are checked for hormone status with the biopsy or after the cancer is removed by surgery. As many as 80% of breast cancer in women is hormone-receptor positive. In men with breast cancer, about 90% are ER positive and 80% are PR positive.

What are the symptoms of hormone-positive breast cancer?

The most common symptom is a lump in the breast. Other symptoms may include:

  • A change in the shape of the breast
  • Discharge (not breastmilk) from the nipple
  • Pain in the breast or nipple
  • A dimpling in the skin on the breast
  • In many cases, breast cancer is found on a mammogram test

How is hormone-positive breast cancer treated?

Treatment for hormone-positive breast cancer depends on what stage the cancer is at and if it has spread to other parts of the body. Treatments may include some or all of the following:

  • Surgery to remove the tumor (lumpectomy) or, in some cases, the entire breast (mastectomy)
  • Hormone therapy to block the hormones from helping the tumor grow or come back after surgery
  • Chemotherapy to shrink the tumor or help kill any cancer cells that have spread to other parts of your body
  • Radiation therapy to help destroy any cancer cells left in the breast

What are the risk factors for hormone-positive breast cancer?

Risk factors for hormone-positive breast cancer are generally the same as for other types of breast cancer. They include:

  • Having certain genes, such as BRAC1 and BRAC2, that can run in families
  • Being over age 50
  • Having dense breasts
  • Starting menstrual periods before age 12 or menopause after age 55
  • Having a family history of breast cancer or ovarian cancer
  • Being overweight after menopause
  • Taking some types of hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Not being active

Departments and Programs Who Treat This Condition


Breast Cancer Program

BMC’s Breast Health Program provides collaborative, multidisciplinary care to patients with breast cancer from the first consultation through treatment and follow-up visits.