Fertility Concerns Surround Tamoxifen Use in Breast Cancer

While many women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their post-menopausal years, this is not always the case. Younger women may contract this potentially fatal disease during their childbearing years, often throwing up major roadblocks for those interested in creating their own families.

Successfully treating the disease while helping women keep their family building options open has long been a concern for healthcare providers. As it turns out, one of the more effective pharmaceutical interventions for breast cancer patients is often turned down or stopped early by those who might benefit the most from it because of concerns about impacts on future fertility. The drug Tamoxifen has proven itself highly useful for reducing breast cancer recurrence risk and mortality, but there is some resistance to its use in pre-menopausal women.

Researchers were curious to find out why this effective medication wasn’t in high use in pre-menopausal women. They hypothesized the reason had to do with the drug’s potential impacts on fertility. As it turns out, they were right.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, tracked 515 pre-menopausal women younger than age 45 who had been diagnosed with stage 0 to III hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. For all of the women in the study, Tamoxifen was recommended as a course of treatment. During the course of the study, researchers found that many of the women either did not start Tamoxifen use despite recommendations or discontinued it early. With the findings in mind, the study’s authors urge that steps be taken to optimize treatment with Tamoxifen while also accessing fertility preservation options for younger breast cancer patients.

Breast cancer strikes more than 200,000 American women each year. Although more common in later years the disease can technically develop regardless of age. Women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer are urged to discuss their best options for treatment and fertility preservation with their healthcare providers. In some cases, measures may be possible to treat the disease while keeping fertility intact.

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