More Breast Cancer Information

Despite the enormous success of awareness campaigns and medical advances, American women must remain vigilant in their fight against breast cancer, as, in 2005, an estimated 211,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the United States. Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among American women and is second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths.

The earlier breast cancer is found and diagnosed, the better the chances of beating it. At any age, a woman should understand her personal risks for breast cancer, have an annual physical exam that includes a breast exam by her doctor, and conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If you're a woman over 40, you should also have an annual mammogram. And, if you are at high risk for the disease, you should begin mammograms earlier. In fact, being tested regularly for breast cancer is the best way for women to lower their risk of dying from the disease.

If you have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, the good news is that newer medications now exist that have fewer side effects, and can help reduce your risk of breast cancer recurrence. This is particularly true for postmenopausal women requiring hormone therapy.

We know that the risk of recurrence is highest in the five years immediately following diagnosis, peaking within the first three years. Therefore, regarding treatment, it's what you do first that matters most. Studies show that breast cancer is less likely to recur if a woman is first and foremost treated with adjuvant therapy, chemotherapy and/or hormone therapy, along with surgery. [1]

Just as important as choosing the most effective treatment, is sticking to the prescribed treatment regimen. Strict compliance to a recommended treatment is one of the best things a woman can do to help reduce her risk of recurrence. Whether it's going to each chemotherapy appointment or remembering to take one's hormonal therapy everyday, it is important to ensure on going compliance to your treatment.

In fact, if you are a postmenopausal woman with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer, a hormonal treatment may be a good option for you. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Technology Assessment (TA) Panel recently updated their treatment guidelines and has recommended that five years of tamoxifen may no longer be the optimal hormonal treatment choice as adjuvant therapy for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive early breast cancer. New guidance suggests that adjuvant therapy for these women should include an aromatase inhibitor (AI) in order to lower the risk of tumor recurrence.

AIs have fewer side effects than other treatment options and reduce the risk of recurrence. While tamoxifen reduces the chance that cancer will come back by 50 percent, the newest AI therapies now can further reduce that chance of a recurrence even more.

At the time of diagnosis, it is important to consider the treatment option that is most effective in reducing the risk of recurrence and is the most easily tolerated.

Talk to your doctor about which treatment is best for your type of breast cancer.

[1] Early Breast Cancer Trialists' Collaborative Group Tamoxifen for early breast cancer: and overview of the randomized trials. Lancet. 1998:351:1451-1467

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