Plenty of treatments available to treat and prevent breast cancer

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 9:16 am on Friday, October 14, 2011

Courtesy Photo Terri Fullerton

Breast cancer has many different forms and doctors have many different tools to treat it or prevent it, according to Terri Fullerton, nurse practitioner at the Cancer Center at Spectrum Health United Hospital.

Tamoxifen is an oral drug that interferes with the activity of estrogen, according to
“It’s one of the older ones, but we use it still,” Fullerton said.
The drug has been used for more than 30 years to treat breast cancer, but it has been used for nearly 10 years to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women who are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, the website stated.
Estrogen can promote the development of breast cancer. Tamoxifen interferes with the activity of estrogen and acts against the effects of estrogen in the breast tissue. It acts like estrogen in other tissue, however, the website says.
The known side effects include blood clots, strokes, uterine cancer and cataracts, says.
“With anything, there are going to be side effects,” Fullerton said.
The website stated Tamoxifen benefits are firmly established and far outweigh the potential risks. But a patient is encouraged to discuss these factors with their doctor.

A study performed by the National Cancer Institute compared Tamoxifen with Raloxifene in preventing breast cancer in post-menopausal women who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer.
Both drugs are equally effective in reducing invasive breast cancer, the study showed, but found women who took Raloxifene had fewer uterine cancers and blood clots.
The study showed Raloxifene did not reduce the risk of noninvasive breast tumors.

Aromatase Inhibitors
Aromatase inhibitors include three FDA approved drugs called Arimidex, Aromasin and Femara.
According to, the inhibitors stop the production of estrogen in post-menopausal women and work by blocking the enzyme aromatase that turns the hormone androgen into estrogen in the body.
The website says inhibitors only work in post-menopausal women because the inhibitors cannot stop the ovaries from making estrogen.
The website says studies have compared aromatase inhibitors with Tamoxifen to see which is more effective in treating early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer.
Based on results, most doctors believe inhibitors have more benefits with fewer serious side effects than Tamoxifen if taken after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. They have found switching to the inhibitors after taking Tamoxifen for two or three years offers more benefits than taking Tamoxifen five years.
Inhibitors will continue to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back if taken for five years after Tamoxifen therapy.
The website says aromatase inhibitors could cause more heart problems, bone loss and broken bones than Tamoxifen. Although aromatase inhibitors tend to cause fewer serious side effects than Tamoxifen.

Breast cancer research
British cancer research scientists are finding signs that beta-blockers may control the spread of breast cancer and improve survival, according to “Can Beta-Blockers Stop Spread of Breast Cancer?” an article by Petra Rattue published in Medical News Today.
Beta-blockers are used to treat high blood pressure and anxiety, but the scientists have found breast cancer patients who took beta-blockers before surgery had a lower risk of dying several years following he treatment.
Fullerton said this is only in the beginning stages and researchers will be gathering more information.
Dr. Des Powe of Nottingham University Hospital wrote about his excitement in the article to take the work further and see whether beta-blockers really improve survival in people with breast cancer.
“This study will be sufficiently large to determine whether we should progress to clinical trials and identify which type of beta-blockers have the strongest effect,” he said.

Synchronous chemoradiation
Combining chemotherapy and radiotherapy during the same time can reduce the cancer from returning, according to Medical News Today.
Currently, radiotherapy follows chemotherapy during the treatment process, but synchronous chemoradiation means the radiotherapy would be administered during or between chemotherapy cycles.
Researchers from Birmingham, England, said during the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress 2011 that synchronous chemoradiation significantly reduces the chances of cancer returning in females with early breast cancer.
This was studied in 48 centers throughout the United Kingdom, the largest ever study to look at synchronous chemoradiation, Medical News Today says.
“This helps shorten the time and gets people back to job and families,” Fullerton said.
Dr. Donna R. Moyer, chief of radiology for Sheridan Community Hospital said she thinks it is great that people raise awareness for breast cancer especially in the month of October, but noted breast cancer is not the number one killer of women.
“Research and medical facilities continue to search for a cure for breast cancer, but let us remember that hear disease is number one killer of women,” Moyer said.

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