Researchers writing in the New England Journal of Medicine said extending treatment with hormone therapy could reduce the risk of Breast Cancer recurring.
Women with large tumours and cancer that had spread to the lymph nodes had the highest 40% risk of it coming back.
Scientists analysed the progress of 63,000 women for 20 years. This is a type fuelled by the hormone oestrogen which can stimulate cancer cells to grow and divide.
Every patient receive treatments such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors. Which block the effects of oestrogen or shut off the hormone’s supply.
Although after five years of treatment their cancers cure. Over the next 15 years a steady number of women found that their cancer spread throughout their body. Sometimes up to 20 years after diagnosis.
Breast Cancer symptoms image
Women who originally had large tumors and cancer that spread to four or more lymph nodes. They are at highest risk of the cancer returning the next 15 years, the study update.
Women with small, low-grade cancers and no spread to the lymph nodes had a much lower 10% risk of cancer spread over that time.
Dr Hongchao Pan, from University of Oxford, said, “It is remarkable that breast cancer can remain dormant for so long and then spread many years later. With this risk remaining the same year after year and still strongly related to the size of the original cancer and whether it spread to the (lymph) nodes”.
Doctors inform that five years of tamoxifen reduces the risk of recurrence by about a third in the five years after stopping treatment.
Recent research suggest that extending hormone therapy to 10 years may be more effective at preventing breast cancer recurrence and death.
Aromatase inhibitors, which only work for post-menopausal women are even more effective.
But there are side effects with hormone treatments. Which can affect patients’ quality of life and cause them to stop taking the pills.
These include menopausal symptoms, osteporosis, joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Prof Arnie Purushotham who is senior clinical adviser at Cancer Research UK. He inform that since the research began. New drugs use to treat breast cancer and those work in different ways to tamoxifen.
He said: “It’s vital that work continues to better predict which cancers might return.
“Though we should know the difference for women might be in taking hormone therapies for 10 years instead of five. The side effects and how this affects patients’ quality of life.”
Sally Greenbook, from charity Breast Cancer Now inform”. It was essential that women discussed any changes in treatment with their doctor”.
“We would urge all women who have treatment for breast cancer not to be alarmed. But to ensure they are aware of the signs of recurrence and of metastatic breast cancer. And to speak to their GP or breast care team if they have any concerns”.