Why stop tamoxifen after 5 years?

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Question from Kandi: Why must a hormone medication like tamoxifen be discontinued after 5 years if it is preventing recurrence?
Answers - Sandra F. Schnall, M.D. There have been studies looking at using tamoxifen or hormone therapy for longer than 5 years, but there has been no benefit shown. In fact, some studies have shown that it may increase the risk of recurrence. So the benefit does not seem to last more than the 5 years. Hence, the recommendation for the 5-year length of therapy.
Marisa Weiss, M.D. As it turns out, if you take tamoxifen for 5 years and stop, the benefit of those 5 years can last longer than the 5 years itself. This is called a carry-over effect. If you are hoping to get the longest protection plan possible, after 5 years of tamoxifen, you might consider taking 5 years of an aromatase inhibitor if you are postmenopausal.

The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Hormonal Therapy Updates featured Sandra Schnall, M.D. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about hormonal therapies and answered questions about which ones work best in different situations, how they might fit into your treatment sequence, how to deal with side effects, and more.

Editor's Note: This conference took place in April 2004.

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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