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Evista for Breast Cancer Prevention

Evista, also called raloxifene, is a medication that's used to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It's also used to reduce the risk of spinal fractures related to osteoporosis. It was during studies of the use of Evista to treat osteoporosis that researchers noticed that among post-menopausal women who took the drug there was a lower rate of invasive breast cancer. After additional studies, the FDA approved the use of Evista for prevention of breast cancer.

Evista is a selective estrogen receptor modulator, or SERM. SERMs have anti-estrogen effects on some tissues and estrogen-like effects on other tissues. They are used to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in post-menopausal women that are at a high risk of developing breast cancer. However, it should not be given to women who have already had breast cancer nor should it be used in the treatment of breast cancer. 

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What is invasive breast cancer?

One out of every four cancer diagnoses in women each year is invasive breast cancer. It can be deadly if not caught and treated early.

Noninvasive breast cancer remains in the milk ducts or lobules -- lobes -- of the breast. It does not spread to the surrounding tissue. Invasive breast cancer, though, spreads outward from the milk ducts and lobules into the surrounding breast tissue. Eventually, it spreads to other areas of the body.

Does Evista prevent all types of breast cancer?

Evista prevents invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women who are at high risk. Evista is the second drug to be approved by the FDA to prevent invasive forms of breast cancer. The first drug, tamoxifen, has been on the market for several decades.

 

How does Evista reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer?

Evista works by blocking estrogen in the breast tissue of women at high risk. The medication helps prevent the spread of tumors that require estrogen to grow.

Evista is not effective, however, in women who currently have invasive breast cancer or who have had invasive breast cancer. It won't prevent cancer in these women, nor will it treat cancer once it appears.

Does Evista have side effects?

Although Evista can reduce the likelihood of invasive breast cancer, it's important to be aware of its serious side effects. Those serious side effects include:

  • increased chance of blood clots in the lungs and legs
  • increased chance of stroke in women with coronary artery disease

Other milder side effects include:

  • leg cramps
  • joint pain
  • swelling of the extremities
  • flu-like symptoms
  • sweating and hot flashes
  • trouble sleeping
  • vaginal dryness and discomfort

Experts caution that some women who take Evista will still get invasive breast cancer. So women need to consider the pros and cons of taking a medication with very serious side effects.

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