Study finds women hesitant to take tamoxifen as preventive measure

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“Our study underscores the need [for medical professionals] to address psychological factors that may influence decision- making, in order to help women feel confident and satisfied with their treatment choice,” says the study’s lead author, Sharon Bober, PhD, staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

While effective in preventing breast cancer, tamoxifen can also increase the risk of developing other serious health problems.

BIDMC researchers evaluated the factors in decision-making in women with a high risk for breast cancer. The subjects were counseled about the possible risks and benefits of tamoxifen, and post-menopausal women were allowed either to take tamoxifen or to enroll in an alternate study comparing five years of use of tamoxifen and raloxifene, a similar drug.

Researchers found that personal health history affected women’s decisions. Physician recommendations influenced women’s choice to take the drug, and researchers also found that women who declined treatment were more likely to report skeptcism about tamoxifen; women who felt uninformed about their options were more likely to remain undecided; and women who were more anxious about cancer were more likely to choose tamoxifen.