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Tamoxifen / Breast cancer. Womens article

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    Tamoxifen / Breast cancer. Womens article


    Study: Drug to prevent breast cancer underused


    WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- A drug that cuts the rate of breast cancer by 50 percent in women most at risk is not being used as much as it could be, because doctors are failing to offer it and some patients are confused about taking it, researchers reported Monday.

    Women may be afraid to take the drug tamoxifen because it raises the risk of cancer of the uterus, as well as the risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks, embolisms or strokes, the team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago found.

    They looked at the records of 219 women with higher-than-average breast cancer risk. Only 63 percent of the women were offered tamoxifen and only 26 percent accepted, they found.

    "Our findings indicate that both physician practice and the attitudes of at-risk women are responsible for low rates of tamoxifen usage," the researchers wrote in their report, published in the American Cancer Society journal Cancer.

    Tamoxifen, a pill used to treat breast cancer, has been shown to reduce cancer rates by 49 percent in women who have a high risk of the disease either because they have had precancerous lesions, a strong family history, or for other reasons.

    Women with lesions called atypical hyperplasia or lobular carcinoma in situ benefited the most. They had an 86 percent reduction in cancer when they took tamoxifen.

    And the study in Cancer showed these were the women most likely to be offered tamoxifen.

    "That makes sense," said Dr. Monica Morrow, a breast surgeon who led the study.

    "What doesn't make sense is that women significantly less likely to have side effects, such as premenopausal women and those without a uterus, did not accept tamoxifen more frequently than other groups," Morrow added in a statement.

    She said better education is clearly needed. While tamoxifen increases the risk of uterine cancers, the risk is so low to start with that it still remains more unlikely than breast cancer.

    "There clearly is a lot of confusion among women about the risks and benefits of tamoxifen chemoprevention," Morrow said.

    "Our findings indicate a great deal of misunderstanding about tamoxifen's risks and benefits among women, probably due to all the negative press it has gotten over the years."

    Breast cancer is the biggest cancer killer of women after lung cancer, affecting more than 200,000 U.S. women in 2003 and killing 40,000.

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    Good thing I don't have a uterus.

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