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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Know Your Breast Cancer Prevention Options

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"The gist of the article is that people were happy years after having it done," she says. But Chlebowski, with the Harbor-UCLA Research and Education Institute in Torrance, Calif., says other studies show that 5 to 20% of women may have at least some dissatisfaction after the procedure, often due to breast numbness and absence of nipple sensation.

Other less proven options are lifestyle changes, such as adhering to a low-fat diet, getting regular exercise, losing weight if needed, cutting back on alcohol, and not smoking. Some studies have suggested that these things may reduce breast-cancer risk, and most doctors think they're reasonable. But proof that they work may be years away. A large study called the Women's Health Initiative, which includes more than 47,000 postmenopausal women, is looking at whether diet affects breast cancer risk, but those results won't be in until about five years from now.

In the meantime, researchers also are looking at two other drugs that may help prevent or delay breast cancer. One Italian study showed fenretinide, a drug related to vitamin A, seemed to reduce premenopausal breast cancer patients' risk of getting breast cancer in the other breast. The other drug, anastrozole, currently is being studied in 9,000 women assigned to receive anastrozole, tamoxifen, or both. Since both fenretinide and anastrozole have fewer side effects than tamoxifen, Chlebowski says results from these studies and others could "change everything" in terms of which risk-reducing drugs will be offered to women in the near future.

But both clinicians and patients must be realistic, however. "For now, there is a limited repertoire of what can be offered," Chlebowski tells WebMD. "After a long time when there was nothing, now there is interest in things that might be working." But he says for women at increased risk there will continue to be confusion as to whether to wait out the results of ongoing studies or make a decision now that may or may not be the best one.-->

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