Most High Risk Women Say NO To Breast Cancer Prevention Drugs
Posted Apr 01 2011 9:56am
The ultimate goal of breast cancer research is to find a way to prevent breast cancer from ever occurring; however, we are apparently still a long way from that happening. Nonetheless, it is clear that there are things we all can do to reduce our personal breast cancer risk. One of the options available to women at high risk for developing breast cancer is to take breast cancer prevention drugs. Both tamoxifen and raloxifene have been approved for the prevention of breast cancer; however, the number of high risk women opting to use one of these breast cancer prevention drugs remains low. A new breast cancer study explored women's interest in using tamoxifen or raloxifene for breast cancer prevention.
For this new investigation, women with an elevated 5-year risk of breast cancer were asked to either continue with their usual care or continue with their usual care plus read a decision aid describing the risks and benefits of tamoxifen and raloxifene for breast cancer prevention. After reading the decision aid, the women completed a questionnaire about their perceptions and intentions related to these drugs. Actual behavior related to the use of these breast cancer prevention drugs was assessed 3 months later. The study investigators reported that
Only 8.1% of women who read the decision aid looked for additional information about breast cancer prevention.
Only 1.8% of the women who read the decision aid talked to their doctor about raloxifene or tamoxifen for breast cancer prevention.
Nearly 55% of of the women reading the decision aid chose not to take either drug.
Less than 1% chose to take raloxifene and none chose to use tamoxifen.
Overall, most of the women at high risk for breast cancer who read the decision aid did not believe that they would receive any benefit or reduction in breast cancer risk by taking either tamoxifen or raloxifene.
This study provides an insightful look into women's beliefs about the two FDA-approved breast cancer prevention drugs. Despite the science behind these drugs that demonstrate their ability to reduce a woman's risk for developing invasive breast cancer, women at high risk for breast cancer do not feel that these drugs will help them. Part of the reason is likely to be due to the potential adverse side effects. Tamoxifen has been reported to cause serious side effects like blood clots, strokes and uterine cancer as well as have less serious side effects including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and joint pain. Raloxifene has been shown to have fewer side effects than tamoxifen. Nonetheless, these side effects probably out weigh the benefits perceived by women with an elevated risk for breast cancer. Additionally, research suggests that there is a growing interest in more natural approaches to overall health, including breast cancer risk reduction. Many individuals prefer to reduce their breast cancer risk by following a healthier lifestyle instead of simply opting for more pharmaceutical drugs. Until better and safer approaches to breast cancer prevention are offered, it remains likely that many women at risk for breast cancer will say no to breast cancer prevention drugs.