New Pill May Help Those with Breast Cancer

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Every three minutes a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer, but there's hope.

A large international study shows that a drug for advanced breast cancer keeps localized tumors from returning after surgery.

Researchers found that recurrence of such early cancer was reduced by a-third in women who started on Tamoxifen then switched after two and a-half years to the newer drug Exemestane compared with those who took Tamoxifen the whole time.

The study appears in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Extended Web Coverage

Facts About Breast Cancer

  • The risk that a woman will get breast cancer increases with age until it reaches one in nine among women aged 85 and older.

  • Breast cancer is caused by several environmental and genetic factors.

  • There is medical evidence of an inherited tendency to develop the disease, but this accounts for only a small percentage of cases.

Alternate Forms of Breast Cancer Treatment

  • There are many ways to treat breast cancer, and these are the four main types:
    • surgery
    • radiation therapy
    • chemotherapy
    • hormone therapy

  • Most patients with breast cancer have surgery to remove the cancer from the breast. Usually, some of the lymph nodes under the arm are also taken out and looked at under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells.

  • There are many different kinds of operations used; lumpectomy, partial or segmental masectomy, total or simple masectomy, modified radical masectomy and radical masectomy.

  • Radiation therapy is the use of high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors.

  • Radiation therapy may come from a machine outside the body (external radiation therapy), or from putting materials that produce radiation through thin plastic tubes into the area where the cancer cells are found (internal radiation therapy).

  • Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, and is called a systemic treatment because the drugs enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and can kill cancer cells outside the breast area.

  • Chemotherapy may be taken by mouth or it may be put into the body by inserting a needle into a vein or muscle.

  • Biological therapy tries to get the body to fight cancer. It uses materials made by the body or made in a laboratory to boost, direct, or restore the body's natural defenses against disease.

  • Biological therapy such as bone marrow transplantation, and peripheral blood stem cell transplantation are being tested in clinical trials.

Source: (National Cancer Institute Web Site)