Medical researchers have added five years to the recommended time period that breast cancer survivors should take advantage of during life-saving drug therapy.

Tamoxifen was first introduced in the early 1970s and is used to stimulate immune systems and overwhelm elements that spur cancer, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The drug is also used to prevent the disease from forming in older, at-risk women or spreading to other parts of the body and is usually taken for five years.

“Results show that taking tamoxifen for 10 years rather than 5 years further reduces the likelihood of recurrence and mortality from breast cancer,” said the report, published Dec. 5 and presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

According to the report, taking Tamoxifen for ten years instead of five years for a breast cancer diagnoses kept three more women alive out of every 100.

“These results, taken together with results from previous trials of 5 years of tamoxifen treatment versus none, suggest that 10 years of tamoxifen treatment can approximately halve breast cancer mortality during the second decade after diagnosis.”

Tamoxifen works by blocking “the activity of estrogen, a female hormone, in the breast,” according to information provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. And while the drug is known to increase the chances of uterine cancer, strokes, and blood clot formations in the lung, tamoxifen also starves tumors in the breast that need estrogen to thrive.

Of the 12,894 women studied in the Adjuvant Tamoxifen: Longer Against Shorter trial, those who continued with the medication for 10 years instead of five saw a 25 percent reduction in the possibility of cancer coming back.

The occurrence of death fell by 29 percent.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 226,870 women will receive a breast cancer diagnosis, of which 39,510 will die.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer ranks second in America as a leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women. And while breast cancer occurs more in White women, Black women die 40 percent more than their Caucasian counterparts because they “often have cancers that grow faster and are harder to treat.”

The CDC said its researchers believe African-American women succumb to the disease in larger numbers because they are “less likely to get prompt follow-up care when their mammogram shows something that is not normal,” and resources for high-quality treatment are less available. 

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer