Compare The Cost And Effectiveness of Tamoxifen and Aromatase Inhibitors Hormone Therapies Prevent Breast Cancer Recurrence, Extend Life
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After primaryfor estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer, most patients take two to
five years oto help prevent a recurrence. The American Society of Clinical
Oncology (ASCO) has guidelines for the use of hormone therapy, which has recommended
as a standard drug for pre- and postmenopausal women. Now those guidelines have
Two Ways to Keep Estrogen Low
fuels 80% of all breast tumors, so taking medication to lower estrogen is key to
extending your survival if you were diagnosed with a
Oncologists have two classes of hormone therapy drugs to offer patients -(Selective
Estrogen Receptor Modulators) and AIs (Aromatase Inhibitors). Tamoxifen, a SERM, has been
prescribed for young, premenopausal women, as well as women already in menopause. Arimidex
(anastrazole) is one of the aromatase inhibitors that are usually prescribed for postmenopausal
ASCO Updates Guidelines on Hormone Therapy
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) issued an update to their recommendations
for hormone therapy for postmenopausal women. Instead of using tamoxifen alone for five years
after primary cancer treatments, they now say that using aromatase inhibitors after, or instead of, tamoxifen is better for reducing the number of tumor recurrences.
That means that if you are a postmenopausal woman who was diagnosed with estrogen-
receptor-positive breast cancer and have been taking tamoxifen, you could switch to aromatase
inhibitors for the remainder of your five years of hormonal therapy. Or you could take an
aromatase inhibitor such as Arimidex (anastrazole) for five years after finishing tamoxifen.
Trade-Offs For Using SERMs and AIs
Both types of hormone therapies will lower your levels of estrogen and help prevent a recurrence
of breast cancer, but both types of medications come with some cost considerations and side
effects. All types of hormone therapies can cause hot flashes and night sweats.
is typically the least expensive of all the hormone therapies, but for some patients it
may cause cataracts, endometrial thickening, blood clots, and stroke.
(anastrozole), (letrozole) and(exemestane) are three aromatase
inhibitors, all of which usually cost significantly more than tamoxifen. Aromatase inhibitors may
cause headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
Paying for Hormone Therapy
It is important not to skip hormone therapy if you were diagnosed with estrogen-receptor-
positive breast cancer. After going through primary treatment, taking hormone therapy is like
having an insurance policy against recurrence. Don't let the financial cost prevent you from
getting the benefit of this therapy. There are ways to afford these drugs.
• Most private insurance providers will help cover your cost.
• Coverage can vary depending on your location and your health plan.
• Coverage varies depending on your eligibility and your state's regulations.
• Check with drug manufacturers for assistance
• More than half of all American states have
discount or assistance programs -- check to see if your state offers coverage.
• Ask your doctor or clinic about local organizations that provide
assistance with the cost of prescriptions.
Essential Tips To Consider About Hormone Therapy
Do not skip taking hormone therapy after you have completed primary treatment (surgery,
radiation, chemotherapy) for hormone-sensitive breast cancer. Ask your doctor to prescribe
generic versions of hormone therapy so you can save money. If these medications are beyond
your budget, seek help with expenses. When side effects become bothersome, tell your doctor
and ask for ways to cope. Be glad that you have finished the most intense part of treatment,
and are moving into life after breast cancer.
Cost Comparison of Tamoxifen and Aromatase Inhibitors
Let's compare prices for a 30-day supply or a year of these hormone therapies. You can see how
big the savings are when you buy generic versions of these drugs. These costs are estimates
based on national averages and are higher than your cost would be with health insurance.
Annual Cost Sources:
www.womenshealth.gov. Accessed 8-7-2010.
National Conference of State Legislatures. Updated: April 1, 2010.
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