The medication tamoxifin is administrated in a pill form. This medication interferes with the activity of the hormone estrogen in the body. This is a drug that has been used for over 20 years to treat patients with advanced breast cancer. Also, it is used as an additional therapy following primary treatment of early stage breast cancer.
When taken by women at high risk of developing breast cancer, tamoxifen reduces the chances of developing the disease. There are on going studies being conducted for the use in the prevention of breast cancer. Also, there are studies using it in the treatment of several other types of cancer. It can also be used to treat breast cancer in men.
How does it work?
Some have referred to tamoxifen as an anti-estrogen. The reason for this is because of how it works against the effects of estrogen on the body cells. Estrogen is a naturally occurring group of steroid compounds in the body, which sometimes promotes the growth of breast cancer cells. When used as a complementary treatment following cancer surgery, it asserts in the prevention of the breast cancer returning. It also has shown to help prevent new cancer developing in the other breast.
What are the other beneficial effects?
Even though it acts against the effects of estrogen in breast tissue, it will act like estrogen in other tissues. What this means is that those who take the drug may derive many of the beneficial effects of menopausal estrogen replacement therapy. These are lower blood cholesterol and lower bone loss (osteoporosis).
Does it prevent breast cancer?
Research has shown that when it is used as adjuvant therapy in the case of early stage breast cancer, it not only reduces the risk of recurrence of the original cancer, but it also reduces the risk of developing new cancers in the other breast. So it appears that it does help prevent breast cancer. Using these findings as a base, a research study has been funded to determine the usefulness of tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer in women. These are women who have an increased risk of developing the disease. This in depth study, known as the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial (BCPT), was conducted by the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP). This is a component of the NCI's Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program. The conclusion of the study was that there was a 49 percent reduction in diagnoses of invasive breast cancer among women who took tamoxifen. These same women also had 50 percent few diagnoses of non-invasive breast tumors, such as ductal or lobular carcinoma in situ. Even with these great results, there are risks associated with tamoxifen. Some of them are even life threatening. The decision to take or not take tamoxifen is still an individual one: The woman and her personal doctor, as with any other medication or treatment, must carefully consider the benefits and risks of therapy.
The use of tamoxifen is not new. It has been around for a few years, but it still a good option in the treatment of breast cancer. Combining this treatment with newer treatments has decreased the number of deaths due to breast cancer, and hopefully one day there will no more breast cancer.