Knocking weeks off the long haul of radiation:
You’ve been there, right? Most of us have. The every-day trip to the hospital or cancer center for 10 minutes’ worth of radiation. If you live close by, you probably have to take a couple of hours off work to get it done. But if you’re traveling any kind of distance… well, it can mean up to an entire day devoted to those 10 precious minutes–for up to seven consecutive weeks. Clearly, even beyond its side effects, radiation can be a major treatment hurdle for a woman to clear.
HRT to the rescue! A recently completed Canadian clinical trial compared standard radiation to Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy, where women with node-negative breast cancer were given a higher dose of radiation for a lesser number of days. After following the participants for a median of 12 years, results showed basically no difference in rate of survival, rate of recurrence, or types/severity of side effects. HRT reduced the schedule from 7 to 4 weeks; still a slog, but a shorter one.
Bottom line: It’s not widely available yet, but if radiation looms in your future, it’s worth seeing if HRT is an option.
Arimidex vs. tamoxifen: growing data points to Arimidex:
For post-menopausal women with hormone receptor-positive (ER/PR-positive) breast cancer, it’s looking more and more like tamoxifen, the “gold standard” of hormone therapy for 30 years, might become a thing of the past.
Results of the long-term ATAC study (Arimidex, Tamoxifen, Alone or in Combination) become clearer with each passing year: after a median follow-up that’s now reached 8 years, Arimidex, or Arimidex in combination with tamoxifen, prevents breast cancer recurrence more effectively than tamoxifen alone. Arimidex (or the combo) also prevents new cancer in the second breast more effectively than tamoxifen alone.
The downside? Women taking Arimidex are more likely to have bone issues, including increased fractures, though this risk disappears once the Arimidex is stopped. And, though there’s a difference in recurrence risk, the survival rate between the two groups remains the same.
Bottom line: If you’re post-menopausal, ER/PR-receptive and have been taking tamoxifen for a couple of years, ask your oncologist if it’s time to switch to an AI. If s/he says no, ask why not, and point to the updated ATAC data.
Bone density: new hope for women taking an aromatase inhibitor: