BCNA News 07 Aug 2017
Women stopping hormone therapies early
A recent article in Australian Doctor reports that many women are having trouble staying on their prescribed hormone therapy tablets. A recent study found that almost 60 per cent of breast cancer survivors who were prescribed hormone therapies – i.e. tamoxifen, anastrozole, letrozole and exemestane – took them for less than the recommended time, usually 5 to 10 years. The study did not identify why so many women stopped taking their hormone therapy medications early.
This report is worrying because hormone therapy can significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurring). Clinical trials have shown that women who took hormone therapy for five years were far less likely to have a recurrence of their breast cancer than women who did not. The trials also found the benefits of hormone therapy are ongoing and last well beyond the period of time you take them.
While hormone therapy can have side effects, including menopausal-like symptoms, for most women these are mild and managable. They also tend to improve over time. Some women experience symptoms difficult to cope with, however.
If you are thinking of stopping your hormone therapy it is important to talk to your breast cancer specialist first. There are things that can be done to help manage troubling side effects. It may also be possible to adjust or change your medication to help reduce side effects.
BCNA’s booklet Hormone therapy and breast cancer has useful information on the benefits of taking hormone therapies and ways to manage side effects.