Healthy Women should take breast cancer pill, says NICE

New draft guidelines from NICE say that women predisposed to breast cancer because of a strong family history of the disease should be taking preventative measures to protect themselves from the disease. There are three drugs which can be used to prevent breast cancer:  tamoxifen, raloxifene and, anastrozole. This is the first time that anastrozole has been available as a preventative medicine and it has fewer side-effects for some women than the other two and trials have shown it to be more effective. The trials  of 1,000 patients taking anastrozole for 5 years showed that 35 cases of breast cancer would be prevented rather than the 21 for tamoxifen alone.

There are a number of side effects for each of the pills though and treatment plans will need to be tailored to individual needs. Prof Mark Baker from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) said: “Our draft guideline update recommends the use of anastrozole as a first-line treatment for post-menopausal women at high or medium risk of breast cancer who don’t have osteoporosis. The evidence examined by the committee suggests anastrozole will not only reduce the number of breast cancer cases in these women compared to tamoxifen, but it is also a more cost-effective option.”

Baroness Morgan from the charity, Breast Cancer Now, was concerned that patients might not be able to access treatments, despite the recommendations. “This updated guideline is a great first step but we now need to ensure that these risk-reducing options actually make their way to patients that could benefit. Ultimately, if the full potential of anastrozole is to be realised for post-menopausal women, there needs to be far greater awareness and support for GPs in prescribing off-label treatments.” To read more about this please visit the BBC website or Breast Cancer Now