Hormone pills help stave off breast cancer
WOMEN who continue taking prescribed hormone tablets after surgery to treat breast cancer are almost three times more likely to keep the disease at bay than those who give up on drugs.
The findings from researchers at Trinity College Dublin clearly shows that recurrence rates of breast cancer are lowest among the women who stick to prescribed medications after cancer treatment.
The Irish research involved 1,376 women and is published in the 'British Journal of Cancer' along with a similar study which was done in the UK.
The UK study looked at whether women who were prescribed the hormone-based therapy Tamoxifen after breast cancer surgery took the drug as prescribed.
They found that women with low "adherence" to Tamoxifen – those who stopped taking it, or only took it irregularly – generally had a shorter time to cancer recurrence.
It has been speculated that the reasons that women give up taking Tamoxifen following surgery include side-effects such as hot flushes and joint paint.
But Dr Kathleen Bennett, from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at TCD, said stopping hormonal treatments completely or taking them inconsistently puts a breast cancer survivor at increased risk of the cancer coming back.
Dr Ian Barron, lead author added: "The study shows that simply prescribing hormonal treatment after surgery (for those cancers that are responsive to hormone therapy) is not enough. . .
"Our data is the first to show conclusively that those who do stick with taking the drugs have a lower chance of their breast cancer coming back."
The study, funded by the Health Research Board, said it was important that there was early identification of women experiencing side-effects.
There should be effective supportive pharmacologic and psychological care, and timely switching to alternative hormonal therapies if necessary.
Enda Connolly, chief executive of the Health Research Board, said: "This is another good example of how Health Research Board funding is delivering practical results that can improve patient outcomes."