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Methods Used for Ovary Suppression in Women with Breast Cancer

Harold J. Burnstein, MD, PhD
Published Online:4:29 PM, Tue March 13, 2018

Harold J. Burstein, MD, PhD, a medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, explains how ovary suppression is done in patients with breast cancer. This is a particularly important treatment for younger women who still wish to have children one day. 

Ovary suppression can be done in 1 of 2 ways, and both have proven successful in a number of cases and trials. The first option is to completely remove the ovaries surgically. This is not the preferred method, but it has become a standard when a patient does not wish to continue with the second option.

The other way to perform ovary suppression involves gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist drugs given via injections monthly or once every 3 months. The is typically used first in younger women and tolerance to the drugs will be displayed between 6-12 months of the initial shot. From there, patients can choose to stay on this treatment plan or have the ovaries surgically removed.

The GnRH agonist drugs used for ovary suppression include goserelin (Zoladex) or leuprolide acetate (Lupron). They manipulate the menstrual cycle to prevent any hormone stimulation in the pituitary gland so that the menstrual cycle will stop. When given the injection, a small percentage of women will feel truly miserable, says Burstein. However, the side effects will subside when the injections are no longer given and ovarian function is again recovered.
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