Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mammograms Indicate Effectiveness of Tamoxifen

This makes absolute sense to me.  One of the key risk factors for breast cancer is hight breast density. I didn't have a mammogram until after I'd discovered my lump but I was told both by my radiologist and my surgeon that my breasts were "very dense". After chemo, radiation, and some time on Tamoxifen, my mammograms indicate that my breast tissue isn't dense at all. The thing is, my radiologist never volunteers this information. I always have to ask. It's such important information to know ... at least I thought so ... and now it turns out to be so.  So please ... know about your breast density whether you've had cancer or not. It's significant.

Mammograms Reveal Response To Common Cancer Drug:

Tamoxifen is a common hormone therapy drug that is usually given over a course of five years to prevent relapse in women who have completed their primary breast cancer treatment. However, no method has been available for assessing which women are likely to respond to the tamoxifen and not develop relapse of breast cancer. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet have now produced a possible way of doing just this.
The team looked into mammograms, which are X-ray images of the breast, for an answer. Breast tissue on a mammogram can be broadly classified into fatty or dense. The proportion of tissue which appears white is what contributes to 'density', whilst the black parts are mostly fat. Since tamoxifen has been repeatedly shown to induce a reduction in mammographic density, could it be that only women responding to tamoxifen treatment would exhibit a concomitant decrease in mammographic density?
The study included almost 1,000 postmenopausal women who had been treated for breast cancer. Roughly half of the group had been given tamoxifen. The women were monitored over an average of 15 years, after which 12.4 per cent (121 women) had died as a result of theircancer.
The team discovered that the difference in mammographic density between two mammograms taken after the initiation of tamoxifen was related to breast cancer survival. Women who experienced a pronounced density reduction of 20 percent or more upon initiation of tamoxifen were half as likely to die from breast cancer, over a span of 15 years, than those who experienced little or no change.
The researchers hope that their results will be used to assess which breast cancer patients are responding to tamoxifen treatment. Since the patient group already undergoes annual follow-up mammograms, no further examinations are needed.
"What's needed is accurate measurement of mammographic density, which isn't currently routine," says Per Hall, Professor at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. "Measuring changes in density can be a simple and cheap means of assessing the effect of the treatment. If a patient is not responding to tamoxifen, maybe they should be given a different drug."


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