Options for Breast Cancer Survivors With Genetic Mutations
WebMD News Archive
Roy Smith, MD, director of medical oversight for the National Surgical
Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project in Pittsburgh, gave objective comment on the
study to WebMD. In an interview, Smith says, "This study is entirely
hypothetical and retrospective, but it is interesting. The assumptions about
tamoxifen benefit are consistent with what I would predict based on our
experience, but there's no substitute for clinical trials. Before I put a young
woman with a BRCA mutation on five years of tamoxifen therapy, I'd want to be
satisfied that it was going to be beneficial."
Even though the analysis showed the greatest benefit was for women who
underwent removal of their unaffected breast, Smith says, "I'm not sure
that's a very useful observation because there are so few people doing it. The
Holy Grail of breast cancer research remains finding a type of intervention
that is not mutilating or high risk and that can be used early on. I don't
think tamoxifen is that agent, but I think there are agents in studies and
under development that seem quite promising."
- Women who have BRCA mutations are at higher risk of developing breast
cancer early in life and, once breast cancer has been diagnosed, developing
- Breast cancer patients who carry the mutation can increase their life
expectancy with removal of the unaffected breast, removal of the ovaries, or
taking tamoxifen therapy, according to a recent study.
- Improvements in life expectancy were not as great in women whose cancer had
spread to the lymph nodes or who were older.