How to Prevent Breast Cancer
Written by : Dr.M.D.Mazumdar, MD
Breast cancer can be prevented or at least, the risks of getting breast cancer can be decreased by :
- Use of Drugs (Chemoprevention)
Chemoprevention means the use of drugs in an attempt to reduce the risks of breast cancer. It is usually prescribed in women whose risks of getting breast cancer are particularly high.
Tamoxifen is a drug used in the treatment of women who have estrogen receptor positive breast cancer. Research has shown that both pre- and post-menopausal women taking tamoxifen had fewer diagnosed cases of breast cancer.
These results were also the first clear indication that a chemopreventive agent could be effective in preventing cancer in a high-risk population.
Tamoxifen has now been approved for reducing breast cancer risk in high-risk women. But it can increase the risks of endometrial cancer (cancer of the inner lining of the uterus) and for blood clots. So postmenopausal women should discuss the benefits and potential risks with their doctor before taking this drug.
- Raloxifen: Like Tamoxifen, Raloxifen is a drug which can block the effects of estrogen on the receptors in the breast. The drawback is that it is not as effective against localized cancers like Ductal Breast Cancer in situ (DCIS) and Lobular Cancer in situ (LCIS). But the advantage is that it has lesser side effects like endometrial cancer and blood clots.
- Aromatase Inhibitors: Aromatase inhibitors like anastrozole, letrozole, and exemestane are also being studied for their effects on reducing the risks of breast cancers but have not so far been approved.
Treatment Plan for Chemoprevention
Surgery can also be carried out to prevent breast cancers but is necessary in only a very few cases.
Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy: Removal of both the breasts (mastectomy)is necessary in women who are at very high risk for breast cancer. It is considered an option in the following groups of women:
- Mutated BRCA genes.
- Previous cancer in one breast.
- Strong family history of breast cancer.
- Biopsy specimens showing lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS).
Prophylactic Oophorectoomy: Removal of both the ovaries may also be considered in some women since this removes the main source of estrogen in the body.This is more true in women with a BRCA mutation.
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