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Study Reports, Taking Tablet After Breast Cancer Surgery Will Keep the Cancer Away

Update Date: Sep 10, 2013 01:31 PM EDT

Even though cancers are beatable, especially if they were detected early on, keeping them at bay after treatment is vital. People who are cancer free are still at risk of relapse if they ignore preventative measures or treatment options, such as pills. In a new study, researchers looked at the risk of relapse for breast cancer survivors. They found that if people who underwent surgery for breast cancer did not take their prescribed hormone tablets every day post-surgery, they become three times more likely to get the cancer again.

In this study, the research team of scientists from Trinity College Dublin examined the medical data of 1,376 women. The participants were diagnosed with stage I to III oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer. The data came from patient records compiled from the National Cancer Registry Ireland (NCRI). This registry is linked to Ireland's Health Services Executive (HSE) Primary care reimbursement services (PCRS) pharmacy claims database. Since the data were all tied together, the researchers were able to looked at patients' adherence to their treatment plans post surgery.

"Our analysis...clearly shows that recurrence rates of breast cancer are lowest among the women who stick to prescribed medications after other interventions such as surgery," Dr. Kathleen Bennett from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the College said reported by Medical Xpress. "When you either stop taking your hormonal treatments completely [non-persistence], or you take them inconsistently [non-compliance], the evidence points to an increased risk of your breast cancer coming back."

The study's findings suggest that doctors and patients need to discuss the importance of taking medications after surgery. Simply prescribing the medications and expecting patients to take them is not enough. Due to the side effects tied with these medications, some patients will discontinue their treatments. It is important to stress to these patients that taking the medications everyday will help lower their risk of relapse.

"Hence a structured approach to interventions, such as, the early identification of women experiencing side-effects, the availability of effective supportive pharmacologic and psychological care, and the timely switching to alternative hormonal therapies could make a significant impact on patients adhering to their medication, and thereby improve their chances of living longer," said the study's lead author, Dr. Ian Barron from the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the College. Barron now works at Johns Hopkins.

The study was published in British Journal of Cancer

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