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Breast cancer patients who stop oral hormone therapy at threefold risk of recurrence

Study by Trinity College Dublin scientists found that taking the treatment consistently over five years has real benefits for survival.

ORAL HORMONE THERAPY following an incidence of breast cancer is even more important than previously thought, according to an Irish medical study.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin found that women who stopped taking the therapy before the prescribed end date are almost three times as likely to see a recurrence of the cancer than those women who took the whole course.

The oral hormone therapy is generally prescribed long-term – for a period of roughly five years – after initial treatment. Women have reported some side effects including joint pain and hot flushes and it was found in a previous TCD study that one-third of women do not persist with the medication for the whole five years.

Dr Ian Barron of the pharmacoepidemiology department in TCD analysed long-term outcomes for different groups, with the help of funding from the Health Research Board. He found that there was a 2.88-fold increase in cancer returning for women who did not take the oral hormones as prescribed.

Prof Kathleen Bennett of TCD said:

The benefits of taking the drugs clearly outweigh the risk of not taking them, in spite of the unpleasant side effects.

The women who were non-persistent increased their risk of recurrence threefold, while taking the hormone therapy for the five years reduced the risk of death by a quarter.

It is now hoped that scientists can build on these findings to create the best possible supports to help women remain on the therapy, while reducing the impact on their daily lives of the hormones.

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