Tamoxifen contributes to rare breast cancer

Jenny Decker RN's picture
Tamoxifen Breast Cancer Risk

In a study published in Cancer Research, it was found that tamoxifen may contribute to a rare form of breast cancer. Tamoxifen is an antiestrogen that prevents estrogen forms of breast cancer from forming. The top researcher told WebMD that this study should not indicate the need for women to stop taking tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer. It is only a rare form of breast cancer that tamoxifen cannot treat and may even contribute to.

Tamoxifen carries other risks with it as well. These are stroke and endometrial cancer. However, the benefits outweigh the risks. It is important to understand that all treatments carry risks and the benefits have to be considered against them. In the case of preventing a second breast cancer from occurring, the benefits from tamoxifen are definitely a priority. Researchers stated they did not want this to become controversial. The guidelines should not be changed due to this study alone. More work needs to be done in this area of research.


Signs of breast cancer include a lump, tenderness, discharge from the nipple, or a sore that will not heal. Many times mammogram is the only thing that catches a breast cancer. All women should do monthly breast exams. Those who menstruate should do their exams right after menstruating (bleeding). Postmenopausal women should pick one day of the month they will remember and do their exam that day every month. After age 40, routine mammograms should be done.

Any woman who suspects that she has breast cancer should see a doctor right away. Waiting gives tumors time to grow and become deadly. Treatment started early gives the woman the best chance at recovery. Those who take tamoxifen should continue it as recommended by their doctor. It is generally taken for five years. The study showed that long term use of tamoxifen was possibly the contributor to the rare cancer.

Risk for the rare type of breast cancer can be evaluated by the physician with individual cases. Together, the patient and the doctor can determine if electing not to take tamoxifen is a benefit to the woman. However, this then puts that woman at risk for more common type of cancer recurrences. Weighing the benefits and the risks are important in any health care treatment decisions.