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Breast Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Breast Cancer


Patients should continue to have regular breast physical examinations and mammography to detect either recurrence in the ipsilateral breast in those patients treated with breast-conserving surgery or a second primary cancer in the contralateral breast.[27] The risk of a primary breast cancer in the contralateral breast ranges from 3% to 10% at 10 years after diagnosis, although endocrine therapy decreases that risk.[28,29,30,31] The development of a contralateral breast cancer is associated with an increased risk of distant recurrence.[32,33]

Hormone Replacement Therapy

The use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) poses a dilemma for the rising numbers of breast cancer survivors, many of whom enter menopause prematurely as a result of therapy. HRT has generally not been used for women with a history of breast cancer because estrogen is a growth factor for most breast cancer cells in the laboratory; however, empiric data on the safety of HRT after breast cancer are limited.[34,35]

Two randomized trials (including Regional Oncologic Center-Hormonal Replacement Therapy After Breast Cancer--Is It Safe [ROC-HABITS]) comparing HRT with no hormonal supplementation have been reported.[36,37] The first trial included 345 evaluable breast cancer patients with menopausal symptoms and was terminated early because of an increased incidence of recurrences and new primaries in the HRT group (hazard ratio [HR], 3.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5–7.4).[36][Level of evidence: 1iiDii] In total, 26 women in the HRT group and 7 in the non-HRT group developed recurrences or new primaries. This study, however, was not double blinded, and it is possible that patients on HRT were monitored more closely. Because of the results of the first trial, the second trial, which was conducted under a joint steering committee with the first, closed prematurely after the enrollment of 378 patients.[37] With a median follow-up of 4.1 years, there were 11 recurrences in the hormone replacement group and 13 recurrences in the patients assigned to no hormone replacement (HR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.35–1.9).[37][Level of evidence: 1iiDii] The trials differed in several ways;[38] however, until further data become available, decisions concerning the use of HRT in patients with breast cancer will have to be based on the results of these studies and on inferences from the impact of HRT use on breast cancer risk in other settings.[38] A comprehensive intervention, including education, counseling, and nonhormonal drug therapy, has been shown to reduce menopausal symptoms and to improve sexual functioning in breast cancer survivors.[39][Level of evidence: 1iiC] (Refer to the PDQ summaries on Fever, Sweats, and Hot Flashes and Sexuality and Reproductive Issues for more information.)

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