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The Cancer Stopper II Update

Dateline: 09/30/00

Tamoxifen, an "anti-estrogen" drug used in the treatment of breast cancer, was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS is the term used in reference to "a small, non-invasive group of abnormal cells."

The decision for FDA approval was based on a five year clinical trial that included 1,804 women who had received radiation therapy treatment and a lumpectomy. The participants were divided into groups, some receiving tamoxifen and others receiving a placebo. The women receiving tamoxifen had 43 percent fewer incidences of invasive breast cancer.

Other studies with tamoxifen have shown that it also increases the long term survival rate of patients. Women taking tamoxifen after surgery have a 73 percent chance of surviving for 15 years.

Tamoxifen is not however without risk. Women in other studies who took tamoxifen showed a higher incidence of endometrial cancer, pulmonary embolisms, and vein thrombosis. Women are advised to consult with their physicians before considering tamoxifen.

Due to these associated risks, women must carefully consider their options. Even for a person with a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer, tamoxifen therapy may not be the best course of treatment. Investigators suggest that the higher the risk of developing breast cancer, the more feasible tamoxifen therapy becomes. Risk is determined by several factors, particularly the incidence of breast cancer in first degree relatives (a mother, a sister or a child).

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