Transnasal, transsphenoidal microsurgical hypophysectomy is a useful therapeutic procedure for patients with stage IV breast cancer which can be performed in selected patients with minimal morbidity and mortality. Functionally complete hypophysectomy can be accomplished with regularity, and anything less than this is considered to be a technical failure despite the fact that remissions may occur after incomplete hypophysectomy. In view of the recent outstanding results with antiestrogen therapy in patients with breast cancer, the authors recommend this as the initial treatment in those patients who are good candidates for endocrine therapy. Hypophysectomy has been shown to induce improvement after antiestrogen treatment, particularly in those patients who have had an initial response to antiestrogens as well as in a few patients who failed to benefit. Estrogen receptor measurements in the tumor tissue have been shown to be useful in selecting patients for hypophysectomy as well as for antiestrogen therapy. Prolactin receptors have been found in about 50% of human breast cancers, and their potential usefulness in selecting patients for hypophysectomy is being explored. Hypophysectomy is a definitive therapeutic procedure that should not be used as a last resort in the terminally ill patient.
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