Like me, you might prefer using natural therapies to traditional medicine. However, sometimes that?s neither possible nor your best solution. Take breast cancer, for instance. Often, a combination of natural and conventional medicine is the best way to go. But you have to know which ones to use.
For the past 20 years, doctors have used tamoxifen to treat and prevent breast cancer. But we?re now hearing that tamoxifen may not be as safe as once thought. It has side effects like hot flashes, vaginal bleeding, endometrial cancer, and blood clots.
Enter anastrozole (Arimidex). This is a new drug that prevents your body from making estrogen. It?s more effective and safer than tamoxifen. In fact, anastrozole taken by itself even outperforms the combination of tamoxifen with anastrozole. In women with estrogen-receptor positive cancers, anastrozole works beautifully. However, it doesn?t prevent hormone-receptor negative breast cancers any better than tamoxifen.
If you have breast cancer, the drug can help you live longer than tamoxifen. AstraZeneca, one of the manufacturers of anastrozole, discovered this in one of its studies. They found that women with breast cancer who took anastrozole lived longer than women who took tamoxifen - by two-and-a-half years. But we still don?t know how long it?s safe to take. When tamoxifen first came out, doctors thought it was safe to take forever. Now they don?t recommend it for more than five years. We need more studies over a longer period of time before we know more fully the risks and benefits of anastrozole.
While it has fewer side effects than tamoxifen, it can cause a little more joint pain. And, because anastrozole effectively blocks estrogen production, it can cause more bone fractures than tamoxifen. This means you need to exercise and take bone-building supplements. These include calcium (no more than 500 mg daily), magnesium, vitamin D, and strontium. Anastrozole isn?t perfect, but it looks promising for some women.
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If you have breast cancer and your doctor wants to give you tamoxifen, please discuss anastrozole as an option. The results may be significantly better with fewer side effects (less blood clots and vaginal bleeding).
The subject of estrogens (both harmful and beneficial) can be confusing. That?s why I?ve written about them in many past articles. All subscribers to my monthly newsletter, Women?s Health Letter
, have free access to past articles on my website. Simply go towww.womenshealthletter.com
and search for "estrogen." If you?re not yet a subscriber, sign up for it today and get all the information you need on this hormone.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
The ATC Trialists? Group, "Anastrozole alone or in combination with tamoxifen versus tamoxifen alone for adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal women with early breast cancer: first results of the ATC randomized trial," The Lancet, June 22, 2002.