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Few Women Want Drug to Prevent Breast Cancer

Weighing Benefits and Risks of Tamoxifen Is Difficult, They Say

What Mattered Most

More than half of the women said the following benefits and risks were "very important" in their decision:

  • Fighting breast cancer: 69%
  • Blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism): 68%
  • Uterine cancer: 63% (among those who had not had a hysterectomy)
  • Blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis): 58%

About 15% said it would be difficult or very difficult to decide whether to take tamoxifen.

Cancer prevention drugs "must have few potential adverse effects to achieve widespread acceptance," the researchers conclude.

Some women said they weren't doing anything special to prevent breast cancer. But others mentioned doctor visits for breast exams and mammograms, as well as exercise and changes in diet (reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine). Also mentioned was reducing or stopping the use of tobacco.

Overall, the women seemed to weigh their perceived risk factors against their personal prevention strategies, sizing up their susceptibility before deciding about tamoxifen, says the study.

Exaggerated Sense of Risk

Another trend also stood out. The women tended to overestimate their breast cancer risk, sometimes rating it 10 times higher than it actually was.

Women's average self-perceived risk of developing breast cancer in the next five years was almost 33%. But the calculations by the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment Program put it at about 3%.

Despite the inflated sense of risk, about 70% described their risk as "low" or "average."

See a Doctor for Questions

It's important for women to see a doctor about any breast concerns and to follow recommended screening guidelines, whether or not they think they're at high risk.

Early detection improves a woman's chances of survival. There are more than 2 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S., says the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women after skin cancer and the leading cause of women's cancer deaths after lung cancer, says the ACS.

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