By the way, doctor: Should I switch from tamoxifen to an aromatase inhibitor?

Published: June, 2007

Q. Two years ago, I had a lumpectomy and radiation for invasive early-stage breast cancer. After that, my oncologist prescribed five years of tamoxifen. But I keep hearing about new drugs that might be better. I'm 60 and long past menopause. Should I switch to one of these newer drugs?

A. You're asking a good question at just the right time in your breast cancer treatment. These days, women like yourself have more choices than they did even a few years ago. Since the 1980s, tamoxifen has been the standard treatment after initial surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy for women whose tumors are fueled by hormones, chiefly estrogen. Five years of tamoxifen reduces the risk of recurrent breast cancer by 47% and the risk of death by 26% in women with early-stage, hormone receptor–positive breast cancer.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »