Carie Capossela took the drug tamoxifen for five years after she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33.
"Even though it may make you not feel great or you may have side effects, you know you're doing something that is helping you ultimately. So, I was very afraid when tamoxifen stopped," Capossela said.
Now, new research suggests women should take tamoxifen for 10 years-- twice as long as the current 5 year recommendation. Researchers at the University of Oxford found breast cancer patients who took the drug longer were less likely to die from the disease and less likely to have their cancer come back.
"The benefits are particularly in the second 10 years," said Dr. Judy Garber, the director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. "That's very helpful, I think, for that group of women who have really been worrying until now."
There are about 230,000 new cases of breast cancer each year-- 50,000 are in young women before menopause. Tamoxifen is the top drug treatment for that group since it blocks the hormone estrogen, which can fuel tumors.
"I think this will have an effect on practice and in particular for my young patients at high risk for recurrence. I think longer tamoxifen will feel much safer for all of us," Garber said.
Researchers say even women like Capossela who completed tamoxifen years ago may consider going back on it.
"I trust my doctor," Capossela said. "So, if he told me you need to go on this drug, I would do it."
The 44-year-old says she just wants to be here for as many years as she can.
Tamoxifen has side effects including increased risk for endometrial cancer, blood clots, hot flashes and nausea. But the risk of serious side effects is low.
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