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Aromasin May Prevent Breast Cancer And Recurrence

By June 6, 2011

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Aromasin Pills
Photo © Karl Stephan

Aromasin (exemestane) may prevent new cases of breast cancer as well as recurrence in post-menopausal women.  You'll also be glad to know that exemestane may soon be available in generic form, as the patent expired on April 1.  That would make for a lower-cost drug that lowers the number of newly-diagnosed breast cancers.

This news is the result of a study done by NCIC Clinical Trials Group at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.  The study's results were presented at this year's the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study, which ran for 5 years and included more than 4,500 women living in North America, Spain, and  France.  Women in this study were already menopausal and were identified as being at high risk for breast cancer.

This is not the first time that a hormonal therapy has been considered as chemoprevention for breast cancer.  Tamoxifen has been prescribed widely for many pre-and post-menopausal women after treatment for estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.  It prevents the return of breast cancer by blocking estrogen receptors, but it doesn't stop estrogen production.  The downside to Tamoxifen, and the reason that many patients don't take it for the full five years that is the standard regimen, it the side effects.  Tamoxifen causes menopause-like hot flashes, night sweats and raises your risk for endometrial cancers, cataracts, and stroke.

Aromasin has milder side effects than Tamoxifen and works differently.  Tamoxifen blocks estrogen and Aromasin prevents estrogen production.  Aromasin is an aromatase inhibitor which is frequently given to post-menopausal breast cancer patients who have completed treatment for estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.  Neither drug would benefit patients who have estrogen receptor negative breast tumors, such as Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

Don't rush out and ask your doctor to prescribe exemestane as breast cancer prevention just yet.  More studies will need to be done on it's benefits and risks, as well as its effectiveness in preventing the development of breast tumors in high-risk women.   But if the research holds up, this drug may prevent many preemptive mastectomies in young and old women who've had genetic testing and found themselves to have a strong family history as well as a genetic predisposition for breast cancer.  For those women who don't mind an early case of hot flashes in order to avoid a breast tumor, the side effects of exemestane don't seem too bad.

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June 8, 2011 at 9:29 am
(1) Marjorie says:

A 3 year follow up isn’t nearly long enough to make a claim of a 65% reduction as this study did. There should be a 5 and 10 year follow up and more validation studies.

June 8, 2011 at 9:37 am
(2) Retaflady says:

I’ve been taking Aromasin for nearly 3 years and I find the side effects are not mild. I experience chronic bone and joint pain and weight gain and I’m taking supplements to try & avoid osteoperosis. I agree that it’s a price worth paying to fight breast cancer, but there are a lot of women who stopped taking Aromasin because they couldn’t tolerate the side effects.

June 8, 2011 at 11:54 am
(3) Roberta Butler says:

I had a mastectomy in 2008 because I was diagnosed with both ductal and lobular breast cancer. I did have a lumpectomy to begin with but they weren’t sure that all of it had been removed. I was not the typical type of breast cancer as well as the cells were in clusters extending up my nervous system, but thankfully not in my bloodstream or in my lymph nodes. I needed not chemotherapy or radiation although my cancer cells were close to my chest wall. I have been on Tamoxifen since Nov 2008. The reason I wasn’t put on Aromasin was I had just entered my menopause. I was told they wanted to make sure I was really in my menopause. For those who don’t know being on Aromasin when you are premenopausal can be a real problem if you end up having a period or are still ovulating. I can’t remember why: ask your oncologist.
The hot flashes at the beginning were brutal although I had more issues with this in the late afternoon and early evening rather than at bedtime or at night. Two summers in a row I would poor sweat from the time I got up until I went to bed. But I have persisted. The hotflashes have settled down now and I don’t have them as much as I did but the heat still bothers me. To me, this is still worth preventing the return of breast cancer. My oncologist told me that their was a medication she could give me if the hot flashes were too unbearable. I may ask her when I have my 3 year appointment this September. My sister-in-law is on Aromasin. She hasn’t had hot flashes but is well past her menopause. She is having issues with nausea and has been on it for almost a year. All the best to all of you with your treatment and recovery.

June 8, 2011 at 5:24 pm
(4) Linda patten-smith says:

after ten yrs cancer free it has come back as a secondry breast cancer in my r/lung and have been told its terminal all that can be done is to try and prolong my life by putting me on aromasin , i have been on it now for over 2 and a half months the fluid on my lung has slowed down making it better to breath ,my doctor cant tell me how long i will live for but i am hoping it will be long and pain free last time i had a ct scan the tumor was 20mm big and just in my r.lung i am feeling very well and planning a holiday to greece in september this yr i am not able to get travel ins but i am still goin if my dr says i can.i do know i have the cancer gean as in my family but hey who nows how long i can go on i feel good at this moment in time .

June 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm
(5) Debbie/az says:

I have been on Aromasin for over a year and have found no ill side affects that cause other things to happen.But… on the days that are crazy and later I found out that I did not take my pill, I suffered.My phamacy just announced that they had a generic for Aromasin.I asked them if my insurance would take it and they shruged,and they never answered. I have a few of my Aromasin left and I am scared to change my meds.

February 13, 2012 at 2:17 am
(6) Jane Johnson says:

Where can I get the cheapest generic form of Aromasin or it’s generic. If anyone knows, please contact me at jane.m.johnson@aol.com. I lost my job and need my prescription filled.

February 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm
(7) breastcancer says:

Here is a list of places to try, for your Aromasin refill.
Also ask your doctor, as they may have resources that can help you.
Sometimes the company will give you a supply.

List of Stores that Offer Free and Low Cost Prescription Drugs

Best wishes!

August 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm
(8) Jovie says:

I was diagnosed with DCIS, non invasive, 0 stage breast cancer on Dec. 22, 2011 and was estrogen receptor positive. My mammogram was repeated after two days – diagnostic mammogram. I got the results the same day and ordered to go for a biopsy. I had lumpectomy surgery on March 1, 2011 and after seven weeks had radiation for six weeks on June 30, 2012. A month after I started Aromasin. The next three weeks was just fine and by the fourth week of the therapy, I started feeling the joint pain on my hands, lower back pain, water retention on my ankles, neck pain and heart palpitation. I exercise everyday for an hour (Monday thru Friday) just to stay healthy and fit. When the joint and muscle pain got so bad, I stopped walking and exercising for a week. I also started feeling flu like symptoms everyday, so I decided to stop taking the medication. I called my doctors office to inform her about it. It’s been almost a week since I stopped the pill and I feel so much better. My 6th month appointment is scheduled Sept. 7, 2012. Has anybody taking just Aromasin stopped taking it because of the side effects? If so, did you have a recurrence of a new breast cancer?

September 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm
(9) avoiding breast cancer says:

Every single girl has a risk, in one way or another, of acquiring the particular cancer of the breast. Breast cancer nevertheless is treatable via invasive surgical methods. However, in worst case scenario, particularly in cases of terminal breast cancer, death could happen. Prevention is definitely a lot better than any treatment.

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