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Researchers from the University of Dundee report that many breast cancer patients are risking their lives by failing to take the tamoxifen they had been prescribed.

The British Journal of Cancer study shows that 50% of women fail to finish the five year course of the drug needed in order to maximize their survival rates.

Study on more than 2,000 women's prescription records found that one in five women regularly forget to take their tablets. It is questionable whether these women know that missing one tablet every five days adds 10% to their risk of dying.

The study records showed that after one year 10% of women had stopped taking tamoxifen, after two years the figure rose to 19%, and after three and a half years 32% of the women failed to finish their treatment with tamofixen.

The study also found that it was younger women who were more likely to stop with their treatment earlier, however there was no difference between the rich and the poorer women.

The researchers stress that the picture is worrisome because it is known that tamoxifen saves lives. Women should learn that not completing the whole five year course of treatment decreases the survival chances. Forgetting one tablet occasionally is not a problem but if it becomes a habit, it also becomes a problem. It is essential for doctors to try to learn why the women stop with their treatments and help them manage their problems associated with it.

Tamoxifen is a drug prescribed for five years period to offer the best chances of survival and not taking the tablets would mean that these women could be disadvantaged. It is essential doctors and nurses encouraged their patients to stick to their prescribed medications as well as ensured their side effects are managed in the best possible way, so the women would get the maximum benefit from the medication.

Breast cancer survival rates have been improving for the last 20 years. In the 1970s, about five out of 10 breast cancer patients survived beyond five years. Now it is eight out of 10.


I wonder if the women in the study had stopped taking the medication because their symptoms had subsided, and therefore they no longer felt the need to continue with the treatment. This is not unlike the situation where antibiotics are used to treat infections. When the patients start to feel better, they think they no longer need the med. The five year course of treatment can be difficult and lengthy for anyone to religiously follow. I think more frequent monitoring of the patients is required to ensure that they don't forget. Patients also need to be educated that taking their med everyday for 5 years would offer their best chance of surviving breast cancer.