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Women take breast cancer risks

Half of women prescribed tamoxifen do not finish the five-year course

Half of women prescribed tamoxifen do not finish the five-year course, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, which shows that breast cancer patients are putting their lives at risk by failing to complete their course of medication.

Previous research has proved that taking tamoxifen after surgery for the full five years offers the best chance of surviving breast cancer. This new research shows that missing just one tablet every five days can increase the risk of death by 10 per cent.

Researchers used prescription records of more than 2,000 women as well as looking at other health records to measure treatment completion rates. After one year, 10 per cent of women had stopped taking the drug. At the three-and-a-half-year point, a third of women had stopped taking their medication.

Professor Alastair Thompson, based at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee and the senior breast specialist on the study, said: "This study paints a worrying picture. Tamoxifen is prescribed for five years to offer the best chance of surviving breast cancer, and not taking the tablets means that many women could be disadvantaged."

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with over 45,500 women and 300 men diagnosed with the disease each year. The NHS screening programme, which is available free to all women aged over 50, saves around 1,400 lives each year.


Irish screening service delays GP visits

In Ireland, healthcare specialists are urging women with breast cancer symptoms not to delay visiting their GP.

The existence of the BreastCheck screening service means that many women are waiting for a routine screening to discuss any symptoms they may have rather than visiting their GP.

Tony O'Brien, CEO of the National Cancer Screening Service has urged women not to delay in seeking medical advice. Speaking at a recent meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Health, he said: "Six months makes the difference between life and death. We would not wish our impending arrival to deter any woman in the age range we cover, who may experience symptoms, from consulting a general practitioner who would refer her to a symptomatic service."

5th November 2008


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