On the pulse 12 September 2013

  • Cancerkin hosts an Awareness Event in Stepney Green
  • Study shows stopping tamoxifen before prescribed increases the risk of reoccurrence

Cancerkin hosts an Awareness Event in Stepney Green
This week, the East London team delivered an awareness talk at the Day Opportunities Redcoat Centre in Stepney Green, a community centre which focuses on enabling disabled individuals to be more self-reliant. Research has shown that people with disabilities are the least aware of the importance of checking your breasts regularly, and as such, it was particularly useful for Cancerkin to run an awareness stall here. Eleven women heard the breast care message and all spoke of how useful they found the information.

We would like to thank Jamie Squire from the Centre for inviting us to speak and being so welcoming and hospitable. We would also like to say a big thank you to our Awareness Ambassadors: Amina Akbar, who organised this event, and Janet Omondi who helped run the stall.

The East London Programme organises awareness events at a number of locations across London, entirely free of charge. Therefore, if you know of a community group that would be interested in hosting an informal talk on the importance of being breast aware, please contact Anisah on 020 7830 2310 or email eastlnd@cancerkin.org.uk.


Study shows stopping tamoxifen before prescribed increases the risk of reoccurrence
A recent study into whether woman prescribed tamoxifen after breast cancer took the drug as described was published recently in the British Journal of Cancer and has been widely reported in the media.

The researchers, based at the University of Glasgow, wanted to compare the cost-effectiveness of tamoxifen after breast cancer surgery for women who took the drug as described (‘highly adherent’) with those whose adherence to their prescription was low.

They therefore considered the medical records of 1263 women prescribed tamoxifen after breast cancer surgery to see how many women completed their prescribed course and how low adherence affected the risk of recurrence, death and medical costs. ‘Adherence’ was measured by examining how much of the expected treatment period for each patient was actually covered by tamoxifen prescriptions. The expected treatment time period was taken as five years, or cancer reoccurrence or death if these occurred before the end of the five year period. When less than 80 per cent of the treatment period had prescriptions this was classified as low adherence.

The results showed 38 per cent of women on the study had low adherence, and that women with low adherence had a shorter time to cancer reoccurrence, increased medical costs and poorer quality of life.

However, despite the media reporting women stopped taking tamoxifen due to ‘unbearable side effects’, the study did not actually consider the reasons for low adherence to the prescriptions.

Dr McCowan, lead author of the study, said, “High adherence to tamoxifen would seem to benefit both the patient and the NHS. We want to raise awareness among healthcare professionals that this is a real issue and that women need help and the correct advice to ensure they have the best possible chance of living beyond breast cancer.

“We do know that side effects of this treatment are an issue and we are currently analysing interviews with women to investigate reasons why they do or don’t take their medication and other issues around adherence. We hope to use these findings to develop interventions to help women and the NHS to get the most from the life-saving drugs that we already have.”

Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, echoed the need for further research: “This study highlights the fact that a significant number of women don’t take their tamoxifen – either for as long as they should, or every day as prescribed.  Worryingly, this can make it more likely that their cancers could come back, leading to more treatment and a worse outlook for them…

“ [However]The study doesn’t look at why women didn’t take their tamoxifen as prescribed, and doesn’t differentiate between women who stopped taking the drug completely, and those who seemed to take it inconsistently.

“So to find out how best we can help women to stick to their treatment plan we would need to understand more about why they didn’t in the first place.”

For more information, please see Cancer Research UK, NHS Choices and Breast Cancer Campaign. Articles on the study can also be read on the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and BBC News Online.

Holly Lovering
12th September 2013

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