Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Breast Cancer Treatment: Weighing the Hormonal Options

Tamoxifen has been the standard in hormonal breast cancer treatment for decades. But newer treatments are challenging tamoxifen's superiority.

WebMD Feature

To Kathryn Anderson, the hormonal treatment tamoxifen offered a new lease on life. A survivor of breast cancer, she had been through two surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy when her doctors put her on tamoxifen.

Anderson is not alone. In the 25-plus years since tamoxifen became a mainstay of breast cancer therapy, the pill has saved thousands of lives. But now, newer hormonal agents known as aromatase inhibitors are contesting the superiority of tamoxifen and competing for attention.

Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer

Just a few months before learning that she had breast cancer, Christina Applegate got a shocking insight into the struggles faced by other young women also at high risk for the disease -- and who don’t have the resources of a Hollywood celebrity. Because her mother had battled breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Applegate had been going for regular mammograms since age 30. “But when I turned 36, my doctor said that my breasts were just too dense for mammography alone, and he referred me for screening...

Read the 5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer article > >

One of the biggest concerns with tamoxifen is that it stops working after five years, doctors say. Yet one-third of cancers that recur come back between five and 10 years later.

Anderson says that after her five years of tamoxifen therapy ended she always feared a recurrence, feeling that her safety net had gone away.

Until now. A study published in 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that taking the aromatase inhibitor Aromasin after two to three years of tamoxifen reduced breast cancer recurrence by 32%.

And in 2003, another study in the same journal showed that women could cut their risk of recurrence by nearly half by taking the aromatase inhibitor Femara after they completed about five years on tamoxifen.

And another recent study showed that postmenopausal women who switch to another aromatase inhibitor, Arimidex, after two or three years of tamoxifen therapy had fewer recurrences of cancer than those who continued to take tamoxifen for the full recommended five years.

Aromasin Helps Prevent Cancer Recurrence

The Aromasin study, performed by R. Charles Coombes, MD, PhD, showed that when postmenopausal women took Aromasin for two to three years following two to three years of treatment with tamoxifen, the risk of breast cancer recurrence dropped by 32% compared with women who continued to take tamoxifen.

It's a revolutionary finding, says Paul E. Goss, MD, PhD, director of breast cancer prevention at Toronto's Princess Margaret Hospital and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. Goss was lead researcher on the Femara study that showed it cut breast cancer recurrence nearly in half after five years of tamoxifen.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow