Not taking tamoxifen, yet fear recurrence?


Question from Getaway Girl: It's been two and a half years since C-day. My oncologist says I'm cured and should go and live my life. I have been very aggressive in my treatments, but I am not on tamoxifen, but it scares me to think of what might happen. I don't take tamoxifen because it scares me that it's toxic as well. How do I deal with this conflict? I am 43 years old.
Answers - Marisa Weiss, M.D. The doctors are looking for ways to reassure you in a realistic manner. The word 'cure' does express a big promise that of course, every woman would love to have. It sounds like you went through aggressive treatment with the hope that you could get rid of the cancer and never see it again. Hopefully that will happen. Over time, the fear does loom. As a patient of mine said, the fear and uncertainty can feel like a whale in your living room—it gets bigger, it gets smaller, but it refuses to leave. A big challenge of moving on with your life is figuring out how to live with that risk and those questions. Lillie, how do you advise the people that you counsel?
Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S. The patient needs to feel comfortable with the treatment. If she is taking tamoxifen, she needs to feel that it is okay to do and not feel distressed each day when she swallows that pill. We don't think patients should feel guilty if they don't take recommended treatment like tamoxifen. There are other ways that patients can help themselves and feel confident in helping to prevent it from returning. Some are not smoking, watching alcohol intake, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining their regular appointments with their oncology team for follow-up evaluations.

On Wednesday, June 20, 2001, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Tackling Fear. Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S.,Marisa Weiss, M.D. and moderator Gwen Darien, Editor-in-Chief, MAMM Magazine, answered your questions about how to manage breast cancer fears.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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