- Question from HollyD: My mother-in-law took tamoxifen for five years after breast cancer and then developed Alzheimer's disease, which progressed rapidly. Is it possible there is a link between tamoxifen and dementia? She did not receive chemotherapy, just radiation.
- Answers - Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. This is an excellent question, Holly, and one that I'm very interested in. In a limited study that we did of women who'd been treated for breast cancer five to six years earlier, we did neuropsychological testing and PET scans of the brain to see how the brain functioned in these women. We saw worse brain function in those who had chemotherapy and tamoxifen in comparison to those who had no chemotherapy or chemotherapy only. We did not have a group of women who had tamoxifen alone, which would be comparable to your mother's situation. However, as I mentioned earlier, the Women's Health Initiative study comparing estrogen and progesterone or estrogen alone to placebo demonstrated a decline in cognitive function. Tamoxifen is a mixed estrogen and anti-estrogen drug and therefore could possibly have estrogen-like effects on the brain that could be similar to what was seen in the Women's Health Initiative study. I'm hoping that the study that I'll be conducting over the next five years will allow us to examine if tamoxifen has such an effect.
- Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. Dr. Ganz has been a leader in research on quality of life for women who've had breast cancer. Her championship has made remarkable advances in our understanding of all of these issues that you are sharing with us this evening. It's terrific that you are conducting this important study. Thank you!
On Wednesday, August 16, 2006, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Thinking and Memory Challenges. Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. and moderator Marisa Weiss, M.D. answered your questions about the memory and concentration challenges that can happen during and after breast cancer treatment.
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