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What Happens When You Stop Taking Letrozole

what happens when you stop taking letrozole

what happens when you stop taking letrozole

After surgery, women diagnosed with breast cancer face the risk of the breast cancer coming back (recurrence). Recurrence can happen at any time. But the risk of recurrence is highest during the first 3 years after treatment. To lower the risk of recurrence in postmenopausal women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive early breast cancer, hormonal therapy usually is prescribed for 5 years after the initial treatment. Treatment that comes after surgery or another initial treatment is called adjuvant therapy.

For years, tamoxifen was the hormonal therapy of choice for women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive early breast cancer. But in 2005, large clinical studies showed that aromatase inhibitors worked better than tamoxifen to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back in postmenopausal women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. So aromatase inhibitors — Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole), Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane), and Femara (chemical name: letrozole) — now are used more often than tamoxifen.

Both tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors can cause side effects. Tamoxifen may cause hot flashes. Aromatase inhibitors may cause muscle and joint aches and pains. A study reports on the results of several different studies looking at how often side effects made women stop taking hormonal therapy. The study also looked at how stopping hormonal therapy affected the women's risk of dying.

The researchers found that side effects are causing a large number of women to stop taking hormonal therapy early instead of taking it as prescribed for 5 years. These women have a higher risk of recurrence and a higher risk of dying from breast cancer.

It's likely that other factors besides side effects play a role in the risky decision to stop hormonal therapy early. Some women may need to put everything related to cancer behind them after initial diagnosis and treatment. Lingering depression also may play a role. For other women, the cost of hormonal therapy may be a reason. Some women just may not understand the importance of adjuvant hormonal therapy or don't have good communication with their doctors.

Study Finds Women Stop Taking Breast Cancer Drug Due to Side Effects

A recent study shows that some women taking commonly prescribed drugs to treat breast cancer tend to stop their treatment due to side effects. The study focused two specific drugs, Aromasin (generic name, exemestane) and Femara (generic name, letrozole). These drugs are often prescribed after breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to help prevent a recurrence of the disease. In the study, 13% of women stopped taking the drugs due to side effects such as joint and muscle pain. Tamoxifen is another drug used to treat breast cancer, may be another option for women suffering side effects from these drugs, according to the researchers.

 Aromatase inhibitors are a class of breast cancer drugs that work by binding to the body's aromastase enzyme, an enzyme responsible for producing estrogen. Many breast cancer cells depend on estrogen to grow and multiply quickly. Once the aromatase inhibitor has binded to the aromastase enzyme, estrogen cannot be produced by the enzyme. This lack of estrogen starves cancer cells, preventing them from growing and dividing. Recent studies suggest that some aromatase inhibitors may be more effective than tamoxifen in treating advanced breast cancer or may be useful after patients become resistant to tamoxifen.

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