Switching From Tamoxifen to Aromatase Inhibitor Improves Survival

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A study adds to the growing evidence that aromatase inhibitors are probably the best hormonal therapy medicine for post-menopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive, early-stage breast cancer. Aromatase inhibitors available include Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole), Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane), and Femara (chemical name: letrozole).

After surgery, post-menopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive cancer usually take hormonal therapy medicine for at least five years to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. Treatment that comes after surgery or another initial treatment is called adjuvant therapy.

Tamoxifen used to be the "one and only" hormonal therapy choice. But new, large clinical studies have shown that aromatase inhibitors work better than tamoxifen to reduce the risk of recurrence (the cancer coming back) in women with hormone-receptor-positive, early-stage breast cancer. But the studies HAD NOT shown that taking aromatase inhibitors improved overall survival compared to taking tamoxifen.

The new research DOES SHOW that women who took the aromatase inhibitor Arimidex after taking tamoxifen for two to three years had:

  • a lower risk of their cancer coming back
  • AND
  • increased chances of living longer.

While an aromatase inhibitor is the best hormonal therapy to start with after initial breast cancer treatment for post-menopausal women with early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer, tamoxifen is still a good choice. For a number of reasons, including side effects and cost, tamoxifen may be a better choice for some women.

When you're deciding on a treatment plan, keep two things in mind:

  • Every woman responds differently to treatment. What works for someone else may not work for you and what works for you may not work for someone else.
  • Your treatment plan is not written in stone. You can always change treatments if another treatment has greater benefits and fewer side effects.

If you're a post-menopausal woman with hormone-receptor-positive, early-stage breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of aromatase inhibitors compared to tamoxifen. If you're currently taking tamoxifen, discuss whether switching to an aromatase inhibitor makes sense for you. Together, you can decide on a treatment plan that is best for YOU.

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