Estrogen/Progesterone Receptor Status

Share this page:
Also known as: Estrogen Receptors; Progesterone Receptors; ER and PR Status; Hormone Receptor Status
Formal name: Estrogen and Progesterone Receptor Status

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

The hormone receptor test determines if a breast cancer tumor is positive for estrogen and progesterone receptors, helping to guide treatment and determine prognosis

When to Get Tested?

When you have been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer or when your cancer has recurred

Sample Required?

A sample of breast cancer tissue obtained during a biopsy or a tumor removed surgically during a lumpectomy or mastectomy

Test Preparation Needed?

Your health practitioner may have you discontinue taking hormones for a time period before your sample is collected.

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Receptors are specialized proteins on the surface of or within cells that recognize and bind to other substances. The binding typically has a specific effect on the cells. Many, but not all, breast cancer cells have receptors that bind to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Breast cancer tumors with estrogen receptors (ER) and progesterone receptors (PR) depend on the hormones to grow and divide. ER and PR testing of breast tumor tissue determines if one or both types of receptors are present.

Knowing if a tumor depends on hormones to grow helps a health practitioner determine a person's risk of breast cancer recurrence and whether it can be treated with hormone therapy to block estrogen and progesterone. About two-thirds of breast cancer tissues are positive for both ER and PR.

In 2010, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) jointly published guidelines that recommend that all tumors from individuals with newly diagnosed invasive breast cancer be evaluated for estrogen and progesterone receptors. The guidelines also state that all recurrent breast cancers should be tested and that the option of testing should be provided for patients who have non-invasive breast cancer.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A sample of breast cancer tissue is obtained by doing a fine needle aspiration, needle biopsy, or surgical biopsy, or a tumor is removed surgically during a lumpectomy or mastectomy.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

Your health practitioner may have you discontinue taking hormones for a time period before your sample is collected.

The Test

Common Questions

Ask a Laboratory Scientist

Form temporarily unavailable

Due to a dramatic increase in the number of questions submitted to the volunteer laboratory scientists who respond to our users, we have had to limit the number of questions that can be submitted each day. Unfortunately, we have reached that limit today and are unable to accept your inquiry now. We understand that your questions are vital to your health and peace of mind, and recommend instead that you speak with your doctor or another healthcare professional. We apologize for this inconvenience.

This was not an easy step for us to take, as the volunteers on the response team are dedicated to the work they do and are often inspired by the help they can provide. We are actively seeking to expand our capability so that we can again accept and answer all user questions. We will accept and respond to the same limited number of questions tomorrow, but expect to resume the service, 24/7, as soon as possible.

Article Sources

« Return to Related Pages

NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Sources Used in Current Review

(Copyright 2010) American Society of Clinical Oncology/College of American Pathologists Guideline Recommendations for Immunohistochemical Testing of Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors in Breast Cancer. Available online at http://www.asco.org/sites/www.asco.org/files/unabridged_er_pr_revised_6.28.10_1.pdf through http://www.asco.org. Accessed October 2013.

(Copyright 2012). Breast Cancer and Breast Pathology. John Hopkins University. Available online at http://pathology.jhu.edu/breast/biomarker-testing.php through http://pathology.jhu.edu. Accessed October 2013.

(Revised October 2013). Available online at http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-treating-hormone-therapy through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed October 2013.

(Copyright 2013). Estrogen and progesterone receptor testing for breast cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Available online through http://www.cancer.net. Accessed October 2013.

(August 2012). Hormone therapy for breast cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/hormone-therapy-breast through http://www.cancer.gov/. Accessed October 2013.

(Copyright 2012). National Breast Cancer Foundation. Lab Tests. Available online at http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-lab-tests through http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org. Accessed October 2013.

Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics. Burtis CA, Ashwood ER, Bruns DE, eds. 4th edition, St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders; 2006, pp 777-779.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].

Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.

Hellekson, K. (2001, May 1). Practice Guidelines, NIH Statement on Adjuvant Therapy for Breast Cancer. AAFP, American Family Physician [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.aafp.org/afp/20010501/practice.html through http://www.aafp.org.

ASCO Online. Estrogen Receptors and Progesterone Receptors as Markers for Breast Cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology [Online guidelines]. Available online at http://www.asco.org/prof/pp/html/guide/tumor/m_tumor12.htm through http://www.asco.org.

DOD (2002, April 30 last update). Department of Defense Breast Cancer Decision Guide for Military and Civilian Families [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.bcdg.org/diagnosis/prognosis.html through http://www.bcdg.org.

Hormonal Therapy, How estrogen works: Receptors in your body. Breastcancer.org [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.breastcancer.org/tre_sys_hrt_howEstWrk.html through http://www.breastcancer.org.

(2001 May). Good Response to Herceptin Found Regardless of Estrogen/Progesterone Receptor Status. Breastcancer.org [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.breastcancer.org/ren_report_2001_5.html#herceptin through http://www.breastcancer.org.

Hormonal Therapy, Hormones in breast cancer treatment. Breastcancer.org [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.breastcancer.org/tre_sys_hrt_role.html through http://www.breastcancer.org.

NCI (1999 October, last update). PDQ Treatment Summary for Health Professionals: Breast Cancer. The National Cancer Institute of The National Institutes of Health [On-line information]. Available online at http://my.webmd.com/content/article/1680.50695 through http://my.webmd.com.

ACS (2001). Hormone Therapy. American Cancer Society [On-line information]. Available online through http://www.cancer.org.

ACS (2001). How is Breast Cancer Diagnosed? American Cancer Society, Cancer Reference Information [On-line information]. Available online through http://www.cancer.org.

Pagana, K. D. & Pagana, T. J. (© 2007). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 8th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO. Pp 420-421, 765-766.

Wu, A. (© 2006). Tietz Clinical Guide to Laboratory Tests, 4th Edition: Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, MO. Pp 372-373, 896-899.

(2009 April 24, Modified). General Information About Breast Cancer. National Cancer Institute [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/breast/Patient#Keypoint4 through http://www.cancer.gov. Accessed July 2009.

(2009 May 13, Revised). Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer. American Cancer Society [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/CRI_2_3x.asp?rnav=cridg&dt=5 through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed July 2009.

(2009 May 13, Revised). Detailed Guide: Breast Cancer in Men, How Is Breast Cancer in Men Diagnosed? American Cancer Society [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.cancer.org/docroot/CRI/content/CRI_2_4_3X_How_is_male_breast_cancer_diagnosed_28.asp?sitearea=&level through http://www.cancer.org. Accessed July 2009.

(2008 August 5). Adjuvant therapy guide for breast cancer. MayoClinic.com [On-line information]. Available online at http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/breast-cancer-treatment/AT99999/METHOD=print&PAGE=all through http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed July 2009.

Swart, R. et. al. (2009 June 4, Updated). Breast Cancer [On-line information]. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/283561-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed July 2009.