Breast Cancer: Time To Be More Aware Of Your Treatment Options

Posted On : October 20, 2014,   Time : 12:31 pm

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the attention that has been focused on the disease has been a resounding success. According to the National Cancer Institute, the cure rate for breast cancer caught in its early stages is nearly 100 percent.

With the traditional treatments for breast cancer affirmed, focus has begun to shift to other elements of the disease: Are the recommended therapies for breast cancer patients always necessary? Should there be more focus on which patients are more likely to have a recurrence of the disease?


Last week represented a significant breakthrough for breast cancer treatment as Medicare approved a new test that will make it easier for patients to determine their course of treatment moving forward. Known as the Breast Cancer Index, that test not only includes predictive modeling for the recurrence of breast cancer in each patient, but it also predicts whether a patient would benefit from extended endocrine therapy.

Such therapy is part of the hormonal regimen many breast cancer patients receive as a routine part of treatment after surgery and radiation treatments. It is usually applied through a drug called Tamoxifen. This therapy is recommended for patients with the estrogen receptor form of breast cancer.

Although Tamoxifen has been shown to reduce the rate of breast cancer relapse by 30 percent or more, it does not work with every patient, leaving some at a crossroads as to whether to take it at all. The recommended drug regimen is for five years, but some doctors suggest taking it for as long as 10 years after a breast cancer diagnosis.

Data have suggested that taking Tamoxifen longer than five years can not only promote a recurrence of breast cancer in some patients, but make it more resistant to treatments. And for those who take the drug, they are at an increased risk of endometrial cancer and deep vein thrombosis (dangerous blood clots in the leg), whether it prevents a recurrence of breast cancer or not. There can also be some unpleasant side effects, such as hot flashes, weight gain and depression.

Tamoxifen can also be a costly: A five-year regimen of the generic version of the drug can cost $6,000 or more for a patient.

“Women with breast cancer face difficult tradeoffs between wanting to take steps to help prevent the recurrence of their disease and facing significant side effects and costs related to extended endocrine treatments,” said Ruth O’Regan, M.D., director of translational breast cancer research at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta. “The Breast Cancer Index provides important, patient-specific genomic information that helps clinicians identify patients who may not benefit from extended endocrine treatments, allowing them the choice of discontinuing therapy.”

SecondOpinionExpert’s panel of Physician Specialists include oncologists with decades of experience treating breast cancer. They can recommend whether the Breast Cancer Index test would be appropriate for you. For more information, visit us at

Learn more about the Breast Cancer Index test here


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