-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Hot flashes and other
unpleasant side effects are a major reason one-quarter of breast
cancer patients do not start or do not complete their recommended
hormone-blocking therapy, a new study finds.
Five years of daily pills -- either tamoxifen or aromatase
inhibitors -- is recommended for many women whose breast cancer
expresses the hormones estrogen or progesterone. The drugs have
been shown to reduce the risk of cancer returning and to extend
Despite such benefits, this study of more than 700 breast cancer
patients in Detroit and Los Angeles who were eligible for hormone
therapy found that about 11 percent never started treatment and 15
percent stopped it early.
Unpleasant, menopause-type side effects, such as vaginal
dryness, hot flashes or joint pain, were the most common reasons
women either stopped or never started the therapy.
"We need to develop better ways of supporting women through this therapy," lead study author Christopher Friese, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing, said in a university news release.
Those most likely to complete their hormone therapy were
patients who were most worried about their cancer returning and
those who already took medication regularly, according to the
study, which was published online March 31 in the journal
Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
Patients least likely to begin hormone therapy included those
who received less information about hormone therapy, which suggests
that doctors need to properly educate patients before treatment
begins, the researchers said.
Women who saw a breast cancer surgeon instead of a medical
oncologist as their primary follow-up also were less likely to
begin hormone therapy.
"It was particularly interesting that greater fear of recurrence was associated in our patient sample with greater adherence to endocrine therapy," study senior study author Dr. Jennifer Griggs, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
"We don't want our patients living under a cloud of fear, so we need to develop creative ways to both reassure and motivate them," said Griggs, a medical oncologist. "This means providing better education about the importance of staying on these medications and partnering with primary care and cancer doctors to help patients manage symptoms."
More than 234,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer
this year and more than 40,000 will die from the disease, the
American Cancer Society estimates.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about
breast cancer treatment.
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