Published January 10th, 2017 by Stephanie
Every year, around 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US. This is counting all cases from stage 0 to stage 4. Great strides have been made in the last few decades in the treatment of breast cancer. One of the advances is endocrine therapy, typically given for 5 years after initial diagnosis. Recently new studies, presented at ASCO, the main oncology meeting, have looked at extending the use past 5 years for some women, with mixed results. However, Harvard Professor of Medicine Harold Burstein has gone on the record to say that extended use remains the “best bet,” for high-risk patients.
The main advance in treating estrogen-positive breast cancer, which is the most common form of breast cancer, is the development of drugs that block estrogen from feeding the cancer. There are two types of drugs used for this. One is tamoxifen, which blocks the receptors in the cancer cells from using the estrogen circulating in the bloodstream. The other is a group of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. These drugs prevent the body from producing estrogen, essentially cutting off the food supply of the cancer cells.
Studies show that endocrine therapy can reduce recurrence of early stage cancer after initial treatment by 50%. In cases where the cancer has already metastasized, endocrine therapy is often the first plan of attack, and it can in many cases keep the disease in check for a long time, even years in some cases. Initially, the standard treatment guideline called for 5 years of endocrine therapy, but in recent years doctors have started extending the use past the 5 years to 10 years.
Every year, oncologists from around the world meet in San Antonio, Texas for ASCO, the main international congress for the treatment of cancer. Given how common breast cancer unfortunately is, this is a cancer that features prominently at ASCO. This year several presentations focused on the efficacy of extended endocrine therapy. Some of the results were mixed, causing a great deal of discussion. However, as doctors consider all the evidence, many, along with Harold Burstein mentioned above, are concluding that extended use of endocrine therapy has benefit.
Receiving endocrine therapy means that you take a pill every day. The extension of the therapy from 5 to 10 years for certain patients now means that those patients will have to buy and take their medicine for more years. Whether you are on a 5-year course or a 10-year course of these drugs, the USA Rx pharmacy discount card can help you save money on the medicine, especially if you have a high co-pay or a high deductible for prescriptions.