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National Cancer Institute Summarizes Risks, Benefits of Tamoxifen

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Mitchell Gaynor, MD, the director of medical oncology at the Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center in New York, tells WebMD, "Patients on tamoxifen should see their gynecologist for a pelvic exam twice a year and a sonogram once a year."

Any thickening of the uterus should be biopsied. Other symptoms, including "vaginal bleeding, calf tenderness, and shortness of breath should be reported immediately," says Karen Antman, MD, the director of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center in New York.

Doctors also say the new NCI assessment tool is likely to improve patient communication. "Women are confused about tamoxifen risk, particularly endometrial cancer. We'd all like to have a perfect drug, but there isn't one. Doctors need to help women understand the concept of risk and reward because tamoxifen is an excellent option for many women," says Seymour Cohen, MD. Cohen is an associate clinical professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, also in New York.

In fact, additional data about the effectiveness of tamoxifen is still to come. Gail tells WebMD, "The Breast Cancer Prevention Trial remains in progress, and one important question we hope to answer is the effectiveness of tamoxifen prevention in women with the breast cancer gene. ... For now though, a follow-up study with better ethnicity data is on our agenda."

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