PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Carie Capossela took the drug Tamoxifen for five years after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33. She is now 44.
“Even though it may make you not feel great or you may have side effects, you know you’re doing something that is helping you ultimately, so I was very afraid when Tamoxifen stopped,” said Capossela.
Now, new research suggests women should take Tamoxifen for 10 years, twice as long as the current five year recommendation.
Researchers at the University of Oxford found breast cancer patients who took the drug longer were less likely to die from the disease and less likely to have their cancer come back.
One local breast surgeon says the new information will change her approach.
“Let’s do the longer course, because it does improve the outcome by 50 percent risk reduction later on in the course of the disease, 15 to 20 years. The decade after treatment,” says Dr. Raye Budway of St. Clair Hospital.
There are about 230,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, and 50,000 are in young women before menopause.
Tamoxifen is the top drug treatment for that group since it blocks the hormone estrogen which can fuel tumors. Risks include blood clots, hot flashes and a slow-growing type of uterine cancer.
“That risk unfortunately is there, but it’s really, really small compared to the benefit of decreasing the risk of breast cancer recurrence,” explains Dr. Budway.
In fact, Dr. Budway has had patients on it long term, and they’ve done just fine.
“I had one lady on it for 20 years, and she was very reluctant to go off the medication. She had a very aggressive breast cancer 25 years ago, and she took this medication for 20 years without any really undue side effects,” she says.