THE use of drugs to try to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women would be a good alternative to surgery, a former sufferer has claimed.
Ann Davidson, ex-chairman of the Burton Breast Care Support Group, based at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital, spoke after health watchdogs said they would consider licensing five-year courses of tamoxifen to be prescribed to women at risk of the disease.
Mrs Davidson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and has now received the all-clear, said: “Tamoxifen would be a way of avoiding surgery for woman in the high-risk category. If this were to work, it could mean there wouldn’t be a need for some women to have double mastectomies.”
Mrs Davidson, however, said tamoxifen was known to have side effects so its use would have to be a personal choice for each patient.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with about 50,000 women and 400 men diagnosed with the condition each year.
The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says not enough is being done to help healthy but high-risk women, including those with a sister, mother or aunt diagnosed with the illness before the age of 50.
NICE has launched a consultation on whether tamoxifen could be used in courses lasting up to five years to prevent the cancer in high-risk women before diagnosis.
Charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer said the move was an ‘exciting, historic step’.
Women carrying a breast cancer gene can currently undergo surgery to remove both breasts before the cancer strikes. If pre-emptive tamoxifen treatment was proved to work, the need for such double mastectomies could be removed.
Mrs Davidson said: “As long as people know what they are letting themselves in for, the tamoxifen suggestion could work.
“People need to be presented with the full facts as drugs can have side effects, but this is certainly something I shall be looking into and raising with the group.”